3.3: MINE, Penwith, Cornwall

Another documentary project I did a lot of work on before COVID, intending to use for this module was on the tin mining industry in Penwith. Dating back to Roman times at least, tin mining has historically been one of the main sources of employment – as romanticised in the Poldark series. The mines have all closed over the last decade because of trends in the international markets for tin, causing a lot of poverty and unemployment in the mining communities. A number of local and international artists have worked with mining communities, giving presentations of their work at Tate St Ives. Many of the mines are currently run as tourist attractions – capitalising on t6he Poldark effect. I have so far visited three of the mines: Geevor, a private min and Levant and Botallack owned by National Trust. Although currently closed, there are discussions on how the substantial deposits of lithium can be exploited without significant environmental pollution – rather than exporting that problem to other countries to fulfil the rapidly rising demand for lithium batteries.

In terms of my own work, I took many photographs that are presented here. And have a lot of documentary notes from various talks about the industry. Some of the photos of Geevor I used as the basis for linocuts in Printmaking 1. And there is significant potential for doing printmaking in different print media for cards and other outputs for the tourist market. The tour guiders are also very friendly and there is potential to develop Photobooks eg as the basis on which I could apply for a National Trust photographer permit to do commercial work on other properties in the UK. I should also ask for permission from the (friendly) community/privately-owned Geevor mine.

Project Plans for further development

We have booked a week in a holiday cottage in St Just for last week of September. I am planning to use this to do some psycho-geographic walks in St Just itself, as well as along the mining coast path. This will enable me to create a more interesting documentary photobook without needing permission from National Trust. I am hoping to revisit again in 2022 to also get some interviews and feedback from local people.

The images would be very effective as linocut and/or drypoint cards and I plan to also try that.

But possibly this would be an exploratory project for future possibilities, aiming to produce mostly a portfolio of striking documentary black and white prints for my own website. Together with my insights on psycho-geography walking. There are also other local artists working with mining communities on work about the area, I would also want to link with them and make sure I was doing something complementary rather than duplicating. And something that would contribute to the local area.