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In summer 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump was campaigning to reinvigorate the United States coal industry while I was in Hauts-de-France, a region so entangled with coal it contains the only UNESCO World Heritage-listed mining basin. But this 72-square-mile cultural landscape of power plants and spoil tips, company towns and coal cars is critically different from the Rust Belt of now-President Trump's attention: French coal mining ceased more than a decade ago, and Hauts-de-France seeks another path to resilience.

In this place of production and change, questions about the past and future have always been intertwined: "During boom times, could people find a place to live in such small towns?" "How would they survive if the mines closed?" Now that France wrestles with the latter, it must address the consequences of deindustrialization. Despite the nation's generous social welfare system, Hauts-de-France has the country's highest poverty and unemployment rates, and while the region has rejected coal, the substitute proposals are starkly different. Some argue for the adaptive reuse of spoil tips as the centerpiece of ecotourism, whereas others agitate for labor market restrictions fueled by xenophobic nationalism.

Meditating on Hauts-de-France can inform resilience strategies for places like the United States, but I am not only interested in policy. This project unpacks these dynamics in the social and physical landscapes, among subcultures defined by life amid outmoded infrastructure and housing built for workers no longer needed. Here, the public face of masculinity is being reworked in tandem with the employment structure, and the only certainty is that coal is not the future. In this context – my family's homeland – I ask questions including, "How do we make use of what is left behind?" "How does the past inform our current identities?," and "How do we craft a future for all of us?"

Selections from Hauts-de-France Mining Basin are currently on view at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago until April 2018. The series was previously exhibited at the Centre Régional de la Photographie Hauts-de-France, l'Hôtel de Région des Hauts-de-France, and EXPO Chicago in Fall 2017, and will show at RDV avec la Ville: Rencontre nationale des acteurs du renouvellement urbain in Valenciennes, France in June 2018.

Hauts-de-France Mining Basin is the U.S. contribution to "Resilient Images," a multi-year artistic and institutional collaboration, residency exchange, and two-part exhibition between Hyde Park Art Center and Centre Regional de la Photographie Hauts-de-France supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s International Connections Fund, the French Consulate, Institute Français, and the France Chicago Center at The University of Chicago.



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