Under towering chimneys in a sprawling industrial landscape, a group of small lakes, pristine paths and viewing benches are improbably sited. In amongst them, the visiting tourists – for this is who they are – are reduced to mere specks; their backs turned away from us, their gaze firmly directed toward the thick shafts of smoke in the middle distance, billowing into the summer sky.
Nochten Boulder Park I: One of the newly created landscapes of Lusatia is Nochten Boulder Park. The park is located on the land of a former opencast mine, close to the Boxberg power station. Visitors can explore over 6000 boulders in the park, all recovered from the tailings of the regional mining industry.
Isabell: Isabell lives with her little son in the region. She likes the development of the lake district and loves that she lives in a place that others visit for vacations. The only downside for her is that there are still not enough jobs in the region and it remains very difficult to find work. If she doesn’t find a job in the near future she will need to move away.
This is Lusatia, soon to become Europe’s largest artificial lake district and a holiday destination. Sited at the far Eastern edge of Germany, near its border with Poland, the region has held a firm reputation as one of the most polluted in the country. For more than a hundred years, forests were felled, meadows cleared and villages emptied to make way for vast lignite mines, which gradually decimated the area – it was said that if you hung a white shirt on a line outside your house it would have turned grey by the time you returned.
But at the beginning of the Seventies, and with renewed vigour after the country’s reunification, a number of the old pits were flooded to create a suite of artificial lakes, an initiative that continues to flourish to this day. Now, there are around ten lakes in use, with more on the way, and a fledgling tourism trade has begun re-cultivating the land.
Steam: Steam puffs out of one of the cooling towers of Boxberg Power Station into the summer sky. The lignite-fired power station is one of three still operating in Lusatia. Boxberg Power Station is often criticised, as part of the current climate debate and because the emissions may be carcinogenic.
Wolves: Stuffed wolves are displayed in a permanent exhibition at the Erlichthof Rietschen museum. Wolves were considered extinct in Germany for almost one hundred years, but in 1998, wolf tracks were noticed again for the first time in Lusatia. Today, tourists can visit the museum and go on guided wolf walks.
Freya Najade became captivated by Lusatia’s quasi-industrial, partially re-engineered feel, and the measured, yet determined pace of change. Named ‘Jazorina’ for the local Lower Sorbian word for ‘land of lakes’, her photographs are silent, studied things, beautifully coloured and flushed with light. Capturing the dense layers of the region’s history, they seem to speculate on what went before, and what might come after.
Ice-Cream Stall: A stall is selling ice cream in front of the F60 conveyer bridge, which, at 500 metres long, is one of the biggest mining constructions ever built. Originally based at the opencast mine ‘Klettwitz-Nord’, the bridge was due to be scrapped when the mine closed. A handful of enthusiasts from the region joined together to save it and in 2000 F60 was converted into a centre dedicated to teaching visitors about the region’s mining history.
Najade is the winner of several awards and has been published in The Guardian, the British Journal of Photography, The Times, and Die Zeit. Jazorina has won the Gold Award at London Offspring Photo Meet and has been nominated for the sixth Prix Pictet. (Lucy Davies)
Outlook Platform: A visitor is standing on an outlook platform and is gazing at the scale of the Welzow-Süd opencast mine. Observation points and towers were built to allow tourists to have views over the active mines and the changing landscape.
Roses: Flowers are planted to embellish the shores and towns and to make the area more attractive. Here roses blossom next to the beach hotel by Senftenberger See.
Freya’s monograph of this series, published by Kehrer Verlag, is now on pre-sale. For more information and to pre-order the book, click here.
The book launch will be held at The Photographers’ Gallery on May 5. For more information, click here.
For more of Freya’s work click here.
For more showcases click here.