“Most of the power stations currently operating (in the UK) are situated in liminal areas; the outskirts of conurbations, the mouths of estuaries. These bulky exiles stand at the gate between city and country, landscapes entirely dominated by them, as if towns, villages and fields were but the debatable land, over which these chimney topped castles claim serenity. Moreover, without the energy that marches out from them, clutched in the arms of giant pylons, our entire mechanized society would shut off. Most of us barely understand what these power stations are doing – yet they are both omnipresent and omnipotent. ”
Excerpt by Will Self, 2010 – Writing in the Times Magazine to support the project’s first UK publication
Over 3 years in the making, Light After Dark is both an aesthetic and conceptual ‘re-visioning’ of energy and landscape. Throughout 2008, 2009 and 2010, I made repeat visits to all 32 major power stations of England. The work is captured on Large Format negative with colour exposures ranging from 5 minutes upto 5 hours. There is no post-production on any of the prints or digital files.
Society and the media are seemingly quick to judge these sites as negative icons of pollution. However, many of us are willfully ignorant of our own personal reliance upon their ceaseless operation and electricity production.
They are massive and numerous but always lie on the periphery of our landscapes looming over peaceful rural areas far from the urban or industrial centres that consume the majority of their output.
Britain’s most famous but now re-purposed, Bankside (Tate Modern Gallery) and Battersea, found themselves sited in the centre of London before any concept of air-pollution or control existed. Subsequent planning has seen newer operational sites deposited away from urban centres close to their core demands of fuel for heat and water for cooling. With the exception of nuclear on the UK’s coast-lines they have found themselves garguatuan, otherworldly invaders of the peaceful rural landscape.
“Whispy tendrils of vapour drift off into the ether as Drax power station glows in the darkness. Cooling Towers seemingly grow out of the lakeside woodland as Britain’s largest power station, thirsty for coal, provides for the energy needs of the country. The plant can process up to 36,000 tons of coal a day and over the course of year eats its way through between 7 and 11 million tons it.” – Roger Coleman – Supporting Essay to Project, 2011
Without an anthropological perspective we could perceive these buildings as clashing with nature and our rural environment. However as icons of past progress rather than modern metaphors for climate change they are strangely embraced and largely adored by the British public for their design, heritage and presence in rural England.