ART AT THE ROCKFACE
Geevor Tin Mine plays host to an exhibition exploring the Cornish mining over two decades
The multiple award-winning Geevor Tin Mine plays host to an incredible exhibition exploring the photographic record of Cornish mining over two decades. CAROL BURNS discovers more
A key centre for the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, Geevor Tin Mine is the perfect setting for an exhibition of some of the many photographs taken by John Peck over a period of 20 years.
John was commissioned in 1972 by Wheal Jane Mine to take a series of photographs for an exhibition but went on to become the official mine photographer up until the mine closed in 1992. During this time he also recorded working life at South Crofty Mine. He recalls wet, humid and noisy working conditions – but found the work exciting as he captured the people who worked in one of Cornwall’s primary industries: this fascination comes through in his wonderfully evocative images that capture an all but dead industry.
“I was quite into my potholing so to me it was an adventure,” he tells me. “And someone was going to pay me for it!” But unlike potholes which are naturally occurring, the mines are manmade, which makes them more dangerous and vulnerable to caving in.
During his time, he got to know how hazardous the work was, being called in to record fatal accidents, for the surveyors who would do reports on what happened.
“The conditions were bad in the early days, they would always say can you take pictures in these conditions?’ and in the later days they never asked me and sometimes the conditions were diabolical.
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“I remember it got hotter the further you went down,” says John of his time in the Wheal Jane and South Crofty mine where he send several hours photographing every month for 20 years. “They talked about fathoms but at Wheal Jane it was below 1,500ft and South Crofty it was deeper than that - 440 fathoms, which is well over 2,000 feet. I saw about four rock falls that happened just as I was there. At times you were standing in a protected area, looking into an area where an accident had happened and there’s bits of rock still falling.
“There’s a wonderful camaraderie, the miners relied on each other; you had to have faith in the men who were with you. I spent a few hours a fortnight there, but they were there full-time.”
Geevor Tin Mine attracts around 45,000 people each year – and recently won a double-gold at the Cornwall Tourism Awards and a Silver award at the South West Tourism Awards in January.
John Peck — A photographic record of Cornish mining is now open at the Hard Rock Gallery, Geevor Tin Mine until Friday 23 May 2013.