No man’s land. Daniel Chatard has been documenting the coal mining conflict in North Rhine-Westphalia for many years.
Text: Finn Winkler Fotos: Daniel Chatard
Daniel’s curiosity is sparked when he hears of villages threatened to be forced into lignite mines in Germany. He decides to drive there and learn more, determined not to leave without understanding what is at stake for the people living near the mines of Hambach, Garzweiler, and Inden, some of Europe’s biggest CO₂ polluters. But it isn’t easy: activists are suspicious of the media coverage they feared would threaten their cause against deforestation – only agreeing to be photographed hooded.
The photography student keeps driving to the Rhineland and spends the nights in the forest. He even helps build tree houses, and he quickly earns the trust of the activists. They also teach him how to climb into the tree houses: you secure yourself to two loops and pull yourself up, piece by piece.
While working on the “Niemandsland” project, Daniel also develops a book dummy. He asks affected people from the villages to write their thoughts on the displacement. The meaning of his images changes in this dialogue.
Daniel Chatard now lives in the Netherlands. His work has been published in ZEIT, National Geographic, and the Washington Post. Both his exchange during his studies and the solidarity of his fellow students were vital to him. “Even if you were stuck on something, someone could always explain it to you”, the photographer says. His project “Niemandsland” 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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