Cette Montagne, C’est Moi / This Mountain That’s Me (2006-2011)

Witho Worms and how he made the book Cette Montagne, C’est Moi / This Mountain That’s Me (2006-2011) on his Carbon prints.

Writer and photography / Witho Worms

Carbon print by Witho WormsIn January 2006 Witho Worms started to photograph terrils or slagheaps in Belgium and France. These mountains are the visual remnants of the coal mining industry. In Europe these black pyramids are the symbols of a vanishing era that began with the industrial revolution and has now evolved into an age dominated by binary code.

There is a sense of ambiguity about these heaps. The steep slopes and dark tones give them a unnatural appearance. In his photographs of the terrils, one can imagine the harsh living conditions of the workers, who once constructed the mountains, as well from the pioneering plants and trees that are now conquering a new territory. He shows a fascinating play of the changing relationship between man and his environment. What once was perceived as wasteland have become centers for leisure and natural parks.
In 2007 he expanded his work to Germany, Wales and Poland. Since the seventies the coal mines have been shut down in Charleroi but near Katowice the coal is still red hot and burning in the houses and factories. And were German coal mines must compete on the world market by 2013, new mines are opened in Wales.

Carbon print by Witho Worms

What can be said about industrial production in Europe can also be said about the photographic technique he uses. For this project Witho has reformulated the 19th century technique of carbon printing*. From every mountain he photographs he takes some coal, grinds it into a pigment which he then uses to print his negatives. Each photograph has been contact printed. Various shades of browns and blacks reflect the specific constitution of the terrils. All photographs differ in size. The almost uniform shapes of these landscapes are translated into a highly individual approach which give them all a specific character. In these prints image and substance, icon and index have become one. The photographs show us the socio-political reality of the last 100 years. They reflect the changing relationship between man and his environment in such a way that mind and matter are closely tight together.

Carbon print by Witho Worms

* A carbon print is made by coating a piece of paper with a thin layer of pigmented gelatin. This piece of paper is made light-sensitive and then exposed under a UV light source in contact with a negative. The pigmented gelatin layer hardens in proportion to the intensity of the light. A relief image is produced by washing away the unexposed gelatin in a warm water bath. The resulting halftone image is transferred to a final paper support.

Carbon print by Witho Worms

After this six year journey his work can now be seen in the Musée de la Photographie in Charleroi. For those who cannot travel that far he published a book
Last January 2012 he published a book on his project. Instead of making a catalogue with 68 look-a-like pictures he choose to reproduce the idea instead of exact reproductions of his prints. Together with Dutch designer Hans Gremmen he decided to print his photographs on black paper.

Carbon print by Witho Worms

The black paper was first printed with a negative of the photograph in a white layer of ink. In the second pass again a white negative was printed but now with added highlights of his prints. After that a layer of cyan, magenta and yellow followed to give each mountain its specific tone. You will slide into the book exploring the differences in blacks and the history of these mountains. Again, icon and index, image and substance have become one.

You can also see a YouTube film about the book and order the book here.

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