Southern Illinois Coal: A Portfolio

Overview

The coal mining photographs of C. William Horrell, taken across the southern Illinois Coal Belt over a twenty-year period from 1966 to 1986, are extraordinary examples of documentary photography—so stark and striking that captions seem superfluous.

Horrell’s photographs, reproduced in fine duotone lithography, capture the varied phenomena of twentieth-century coal mining technology: the awesome scale of surface mining machines and their impact on the land; massive machines ...

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Overview

The coal mining photographs of C. William Horrell, taken across the southern Illinois Coal Belt over a twenty-year period from 1966 to 1986, are extraordinary examples of documentary photography—so stark and striking that captions seem superfluous.

Horrell’s photographs, reproduced in fine duotone lithography, capture the varied phenomena of twentieth-century coal mining technology: the awesome scale of surface mining machines and their impact on the land; massive machines forced into narrow passageways with inches to spare as they carry coal from the face to conveyer belts; and, more significantly, the advent of continuous miners, machines that dominated underground or "deep" mines during the mid-1960s.

Horrell was also intrigued by the related activities of mining, including coal’s processing, cleaning, and transportation, as well as the daily, behind-the-scenes operations that keep mines and miners working. His photographs reflect the beauty of the commonplace—the clothes of the miners, their dinner pails, and their tools—and reveal the picturesque remnants of closed mines: the weathered boards of company houses, the imposing iron beauty of an ancient tipple, the grassy sidewalks of an old coal town, and an abandoned building against the lowering sky of an approaching storm. Finally, his portraits of coal miners, such as the widely published Black-Faced Miner, show the strength, dignity, and enduring spirit of the men and women who work the southern Illinois coal mines.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In cool documentary style, Horrell’s photos detail the miners, the methods, and the artifacts of Illinois coal. From giant sur­face shovels to self propelled underground extractors, processing equipment, and abandoned mines, Horrell covered the coal fields.”—St. Louis Post Dispatch
Brad Hooper
C. William Horrell 1918-89 was widely recognized as an outstanding social-documentary photographer and taught at Southern Illinois University's Department of Cinema and Photography. His stomping grounds, the bottom portion of Illinois, is commonly known as Little Egypt--and is also known for its coal mines. That industry, particularly the men who toiled in it, held fascination for Horrell, and this album of his mine photographs, taken between 1966 and 1986, shows a Walker Evans-like sensitivity and artfulness in capturing ordinary folks wearing their problems and their individuality on their faces. In addition to the miners, Horrell trained his camera on mining equipment, which, of course, has grown in sophistication since the days of the pickax, and on the towns and houses miners lived in. Exceptional photography and social commentary that transcends regional interest.
Booknews
Features 78 vivid black-and-white photos that record the (now disappearing) heritage of the coal mining industry in southern Illinois. Horrell (1918-1989) was instrumental in establishing the photography department at Southern Illinois University, and his work resonates with both aesthetic and social commitment. His son Jeffrey provides the foreword; the text by Herbert K. Russell profiles Horrell's career and gives background on the mining industry and the photos. 12x11.5" Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809313419
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1995
  • Series: Shawnee Books Series
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 132
  • Sales rank: 897,065
  • Product dimensions: 11.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

C. William Horrell, 1918–1989, began his teaching career at Southern Illinois University in 1949, where he was instrumental in establishing the Department of Cinema and Photography. During Horrell’s lifetime, his photographs appeared in many major metropolitan newspapers and a variety of popular and specialty magazines, including Life, Pic, Youth, and Friends.

Herbert K. Russell compiled the photographs that make up A Southern Illinois Album: Farm Security Administration Photographs, 1936–1943.

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