Josef Stoffels historic photos offer a glimpse into the boom years of the coal industry

Josef Stoffels historic photos offer a glimpse into the boom years of the coal industry

Relaxing in the Zollverein coal mine complex

Large smokestacks and monolithic winding towers have long shaped the landscape of the Ruhr area. Some of the facilities have been preserved as industrial monuments. Joseph Stoffels shows how impressive the coal mines were in their heyday at the beginning of the 1950s in an exhibition at the Ruhr Museum Essen in the former Zollverein coal mine. It opens January 22.

Josef Stoffels historic photos offer a glimpse into the boom years of the coal industry

A growing industry

Peacefully grazing cows are shown against the backdrop of a coal mine. Such images were favored by Stoffels' clients in the coal and steel industry and supported what was referred to as the "flourishing mining landscape" in the Ruhr area. Josef Stoffels was enthusiastic about the monumental industrial plants and ambitiously documented many of the region's mines.

Josef Stoffels historic photos offer a glimpse into the boom years of the coal industry

Scholven mine in Gelsenkirchen

Between 1952 and 1954, Stoffels photographed primarily on color slide films and on negatives in all formats. He was sponsored by the photo film company Agfa, which in turn used the images to promote the color quality of its products. Parts of the Scholven mine shown here have been preserved as a monument today.

Josef Stoffels historic photos offer a glimpse into the boom years of the coal industry

Coal mines could be beautiful

Josef Stoffels photographed industrial plants in very different ways. At one point he concerned himself with depicting parts of buildings in a simple manner. He later adopted a style of industrial romanticism and featured imposing clouds of smoke, such as those shown here at the Lorraine mine in Bochum. He happily allowed himself to be photographed with his car, a Borgward Isabella.

Josef Stoffels historic photos offer a glimpse into the boom years of the coal industry

Stoffels at work

During the war, Stoffels suffered a severe leg injury and also lost an eye. As a result, he was never alone on a shoot. He was typically accompanied by his daughter Irmgard. Many photos of Stoffels on the job, such as this one, were likely taken by her.

Josef Stoffels historic photos offer a glimpse into the boom years of the coal industry

A tower at Bochum-Wattenscheid

Since the industrial plants spanned several kilometers, areal photographs were the only way to capture the mine as a whole. Even individual larger components, such as this winding tower of a mine in Wattenscheid, were difficult to photograph due to the narrow structure of the facilities.

Josef Stoffels historic photos offer a glimpse into the boom years of the coal industry

A life in color

A miner works in the pit of the Carl Funke mine in Essen Heisingen. For a color photo documentation project, Josef Stoffels photographed underground. Because this ambitious project was never finished due to lack of funding, many of his images of workers in the tunnels went undiscovered for years. The Ruhr Museum Essen brings them to light in a new exhibition.

Josef Stoffels historic photos offer a glimpse into the boom years of the coal industry

Documenting the lives of miners

Those who came up from shafts "underground" after a shift were soot-smeared with poisonous coal dust. Coal dust and smoke from the chimneys not only bothered the miners, but also the residents in the Ruhr area. the "Krupp cough" was named after the steel company Krupp, which plagued both older miners and children.

Josef Stoffels historic photos offer a glimpse into the boom years of the coal industry

Social responsibility in the mines

The impacts of heavy physical stress from mining were well-known to the heads of industrial plants. In order to preserve the work abilities of their employees, they built hospitals, sports clubs and provided childcare. In this picture, Josef Stoffels captured a scene in the kindergarten of the Mathias Stinnes mining area in Essen.

Josef Stoffels historic photos offer a glimpse into the boom years of the coal industry

The shaft of the Prosper mine in Bottrop

The Prosper mine in Bottrop is one of the last two coal mines still in operation, but will close in 2018. Throughout the year, many events will focus on Germany's withdraw from coal. The exhibition "Josef Stoffels - Rock Coal - Photographs from the Ruhr Area" will be on display in Essen until September 9th.

In 2018 Germany's last coal mines will close, bringing the coal era to an end. Photographer Josef Stoffers work offers a window into the industry's past in a new exhibition in Essen.

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