The photograph series “For What It’s Worth” by photographer and artist Dillon Marsh is at the very least surreal. By combining photographic precision and computer-generated imagery Marsh produces illogical images as an attempt to provide a graphic visualization of the quantity of copper extracted from the Blue Mine in Springbok, situated 550 km north of Cape Town.
The blue in ‘Blue Mine’ is in reference to the color of rocks in the mine as a result of copper coming into contact with oxygen in the air. Back to the mid-19th century copper was the primarily driving force behind the establishment of relatively remote area of the country such as Springbok, Okiep and Nababeep as formal towns. Following operations that began in 1852, the Blue Mine is recorded as the first commercial mining endeavour in South Africa. South Africa hasn’t been so commercial before, and with the discovery of copper deposits the town became a centre for mining prospectors with movement of people coming to Springbok also attracted by its near and steady supply of drinkable water.
By 2007, however, most of these mines had run their course and production had stopped almost completely. As an attempted to represent the uncertain future for the towns and people of the region, Marsh placed impressive copper spheres in the arid scene of what once served as copper mine. “Whether they are active or long dormant, mines speak of a combination of sacrifice and gain”, describes Marsh. He also adds “their features are crude, unsightly scars on the landscape – unlikely feats of hard labor and specialized engineering, constructed to extract value from the earth but also exacting a price”.
Mash’s intention is “to create a kind of visualization of the merits and shortfalls of mining in South Africa, an industry that has shaped the history and economy of the country so radically”. On the one hand, the development of the mines around Okiep contributed significantly to the demise of copper mining in south-west of England. On the other hand technology and skill were still transferred from these mines to other parts of the world. Unesco classifies the principle value of the copper mine site of Springbok an extension of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape in the UK, for instance, also sharing a close association with other mining landscape in Australia, Brazil, India and Mexico.
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Source and picture credit: springbokinfo.co.za, designboom.com, visualnews.com, ignant.de, whc.unesco.org, dillonmarsh.com
Camilla G.//SMC Editor