It’s 5 p.m. here on the Rheinpreußen slagheap in Moers. I am sitting next to the “Geleucht”, a landmark that I have seen so many times from a distance. The Geleucht is a huge pit lamp, about thirty meters high, which marks the eastern end of the Ruhr region with its mining history, visible from afar. At night it is imposingly illuminated so that it seems to glow by itself. This is what I am here to photograph.
An unexpected retrospective
The sky is almost cloudless. It is cold, a light wind blows. The view is magnificent and not obscured by any haze. Even places and objects in the far distance I can recognize clearly. Looking to the east, I see the Ruhr area, my often unloved home, and in it many spots of my photographic work. Thus I am looking not only to the east but also back into the past, waving, as it were, to my younger self taking pictures.
There are the Rhine meadows with the two bridges in Duisburg Beeckerwerth. I had first discovered this place four years ago and have been there many times since to photograph the bridges, the trees, the river, or other scenic details.
There is the Alsum Hill, at its feet the three water towers and the steel mill. Many an experiment with long exposures I have made here, including a long exposure of 12 minutes, my most extended exposure to date. But I also made my first attempts at night photography here when I tried to photograph the steel mill, at that time together with my photo buddy Frank. I still vividly remember how I thought I lost my lens cap in the dark, only to realize at home that it had slipped into a crack in my photo backpack.
Further down the Rhine, there is the Walsum power plant, which I have visited twice because the first time I had forgotten to recharge my battery, forcing me to leave earlier than intended.
In the other direction – out of sight, but I know it’s there – the Duisburg Landscape Park with its old industrial buildings and impressive towers.
Also, the Duisburg Zoo, where I spent many hours taking portraits of animals.
In the distance, I can see the Haniel slag heap with its unmistakable silhouette. Behind it, even further away, rise the towers of the Scholven power plant. Not far from there, I know, my family is doing their thing right now while I am away taking pictures.
Things to come
But there are also many places I have not yet visited. Now I look into the future. However, it is much more unclear than the past – hardly surprising, really. Quite close, at the foot of the hill I’m on, a small village church defies post-industrial modernity. Surrounded by trees and small houses, the spot looks as if time has stood still there. Directly on the Rhine, there are a couple of white mini-gasometers, which are certainly also very photogenic in the right light. Many old mining towers rise in the distance, all of them out of use and so far undiscovered by me.
All this and much more now seems full of promise. After a year of lockdown, I realize that although I don’t actually feel that restricted, a certain despondency has spread unnoticed. Yet the world, even the seemingly familiar homeland, is full of small wonders and exciting discoveries. There’s nothing wrong with a photographer leaving the house to photograph landscapes and buildings, as long as he or she wears a mask and keeps his or her distance from fellow human beings.
I resolve here and now not to let the pandemic hold me back. There are still many slag heaps in the Ruhr area that I have yet to explore. Later in the evening, I meet another photographer who wants to photograph the same landmark. He tells me about a Rhine bridge that is interestingly lit at night – another promising location. I decide to head there right away tomorrow. Adventure awaits. But that is the subject of another blog post.
The mining lamp landmark at the Rheinpreußen slag heap
For know, I have to get started taking pictures of the Geleucht. There’s nothing than living in the present after all.