Ken Hermann’s Telling Portraits of Coal Miners

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All images by Ken Hermann. Used with permission.

For many years in America, coal miners went through hellish conditions to keep the country fueled and chugging along. While that isn’t so much the case today, coal mining is still a big operation in other countries and photographer Ken Hermann‘s photos of coal miners document modern miners hard at work. Ken’s style is a mix of documentary and environmental portraiture, and this is reflected in his Hollywood Characters and Flower Men projects.

“Jaharia is one of the few coal mines in the world where you can find underground fires. That makes the place very unique.” says Ken. “It is a very visual place. The smoke, dirt and colors makes it a great place to take photos.” These visuals directly affected his creative decisions involving the framing of his subjects. He continued to tell us that his creative decisions were based on the shape of the person’s face while trying to balance a variety of different scenes to give the viewer a better sense of the coal mines.

Ken’s use of flash helped to give his photographs the details that can’t be normally seen with the human eye. “It made it possible to create the special atmosphere and look I was aiming for which was an almost surreal universe.” says Ken. Additionally, Ken says that the biggest concern of the miners was to not look poor–and not a single one asked for money.

“I find every one special in their own way – but the project in general means a lot to me. It was a unique experience and a very difficult photo series to shoot. The surroundings were hot and dirty and there is a lot of illegal mining in the area which is big business so the people who run this place don’t like to create attention to it. The thing I remember the most was my meeting with the miners because even though they were really hard-working and dirty they were some of the most proud people I have ever photographed.”

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