Mining communities
Bertien van Manen, Bus stop, Apanas, Siberia, 1994

Mining communities

This exhibition focuses on a recurring theme in Bertien van Manen's work: everyday life in mining communities.

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Bertien van Manen's interest in mining life led her to Yorkshire in the UK in 1979, where mining was a major industry. Between 1985 and 2013, she travelled eight times to the Appalachian Mountains in the United States to photograph first female miners and then regularly a befriended family of mineworkers from Kentucky. In the early 1990s, she visited residents of a village located in one of the world's largest coal mining areas in Siberia, Russia. Equally telling are the photographs Bertien took of Most, a town in the Czech Republic, which had to make way in its entirety for the expansion of a mine.

The subject of mining communities has a direct link to Bertien's own background. Bertien van Manen, born Henket, grew up in Heerlen, the centre of the former Eastern Mining Area. Her father was an electrical engineer for De Staatsmijnen and as a child she loved coming home to the children of miners, where the atmosphere was unpretentious, cordial and warm; an experience that made a deep impression. After leaving the Eastern Mining Area, Bertien visited such places again and again, focusing her photographs not so much on socio-economic changes, but rather on human interaction, lifelong relationships, love and suffering, and bonding through tradition and family.