Europe’s largest lignite mining region is situated in the far west of Germany between the cities of Cologne, Aachen, and Mönchengladbach. Given the urgency of climate change, the giant bucket-wheel excavators that continue to churn up the earth and turn the surrounding landscape into a gaping wound seem almost like an anachronism. Dozens of settlements, villages, and small towns have fallen victim to the ever-increasing need for energy. A total of 50,000 residents have left voluntarily or been resettled by the mine’s operator and the regional government.
The photographer Matthias Jung spent ten years exploring the Rhineland lignite basin, camera in hand. Apart from documenting the dystopic transformation of the landscape, he focused in particular on the local residents and their stories: environmental activists, protesters living in the forests, the “Rhineland Potato Queen” and the “May Couple”, citizens’ councils, and local shooting clubs.
Jung combines his portraits with pictures of objects that had to move to a new home just like the residents. Like archeological artifacts, they recall an existence that threatens to sink into oblivion.