Between stony fronts. Since 2017, Daniel Chatard has been photographing the conflict surrounding coal mining in North Rhine-Westphalia in his work “No Man’s Land”.
Text: Finn Winkler Fotos: Daniel Chatard
Daniel is stunned when his friend tells him the story of threatened villages that are to be forcibly relocated for lignite mining in Germany. Out of curiosity, he decides to travel to the Rhineland and investigate further. There he meets activists who live in tree houses as part of their campaign against the logging of Hambach Forest.
Contact with them is difficult at first: the activists are suspicious of the media. They only want to be photographed hooded. But Daniel doesn’t let up: he keeps driving to the Rhineland, spending the night in the forest. He even helps build tree houses. He soon succeeds in winning the trust of the activists. They also show him how to climb into the tree houses: you secure yourself to two loops. Like a caterpillar, you then pull yourself up, piece by piece.
Meanwhile, Daniel is also working on a book dummy. For this purpose, he is currently on the road again in the Rhineland to have affected people from the villages write down their thoughts on the matter. For him, this creates an exciting dialogue: The meaning of his images is renegotiated. Together with his photographs, these thoughts and quotes will be published at the end.
Daniel Chatard now lives in the Netherlands. His work has been published in ZEIT, National Geographic, and the Washington Post , among others. The exchange during his studies meant a lot to him, as did the solidarity of his fellow students: “Even if you were stuck on something, someone could always explain it to you,” says the photographer. “No Man’s Land” was nominated for the Leica Oskar Barnack Award in 2018 and exhibited at the FOTODOKS Festival in Munich the following year.
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