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The Book Column : Elie Monferier : Journal des Mines


Journal des Mines, the third artist book by photographer Elie Monferier, is a reflection on both impediment and how industrial memory can shape a landscape.

During a residency in the Couserans valley in November 2022, Elie Monferier learned of the nearby Bulard mine, the highest in Europe, located at an altitude of 2700 meters. After numerous preparations, the discovery of the mine was hindered by snowfalls. The photographer ultimately never managed to access it.

This initial disappointment led him to explore the Couserans valley, whose metal-rich soil has made it a major mining extraction site from Roman antiquity until the 1980s. “For two weeks, I went to places indicated to me as former mines, but most of the time, upon arrival, I found only a sealed gate for safety reasons or a site where nature had taken over. »

Elie Monferier’s experience quickly turned into a “confrontation with failure, silence, and absence.” While he expected to meet miners, the photographer didn’t encounter a soul. Alone in front of these wild landscapes, he directed his reflection towards nature, exploring how this almost forgotten mining memory still continues to dialogue with the visible.

From the copper cover meant to fade away with time, to the photographs printed on both sides of the pages and therefore cut in half ; from the redacted text to the archival pictures of miners printed in the hollow of untrimmed pages to complicate the reading process : every detail of the book has been designed around this tension between, on one hand, the frustrations experienced by the photographer in his attempts to grasp the territory, and on the other hand, the mining memory.

This memory hovers over the entire book, with photographs bathed in a smoky atmosphere. Printed on a particularly color-absorbing recycled paper, these desolate landscapes, captured in the metallic light of the Pyrenees, seem covered with a veil of soot: the last traces of a mining past fading away a little more each day…

Zoé Isle de Beauchaine


Elie Monferier – Journal des Mines
50 copies handmade by the author
Copper cover
18×24 cm
112 pages
109 photographs
390 euros

Available in all good bookstores and online

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