(c) Louie Palu

I’ve known about Louie Palu’s Cage Call pictures for some time. And I’m a fan.

Maybe it’s the coal mining towns I grew up in… maybe it’s memories of going underground with dad (or more recently photographing near the face in a small western coalfields pit) or maybe it’s simply the fantastic pictures that Palu has produced that keep me coming back again and again.

They are graphic, strong square slabs of light and dark, edge and angle. His use of hard cutting flash is fantastic: it puts everything on the table, revealed in a blast of light before everyone is plunged back into the funny world of cap lamps and crib lights. Beautiful.

(c) Louie Palu

Palu spent many, many years chasing this work… sleeping in his truck, working on the slimmest of budgets (otherwise known as broke and still chasing it!) and ended up receiving the Critical Mass Book Award to be able to bring these to the printed page in a solid format. Respect to the guy for just doing it. Respect.

I adore (ADORE!) his photograph of the operator perched on his drill lining up the chalked targets as he opens up a ramp in Ontario. The scribbles on the face are like some sort of industrial cave painting; scrawled only to be destroyed in short order by the artists themselves.

Dr Alsion Devine Nordstrom, a curator of photographs at the George Eastman House had this to say about Palu’s Cage Call:

“Photography transforms the mundane facts of labor in Cage Call: Life and Death in the Hard Rock Mining Belt, a classic black and white study of the mines of northern Canada by journalist Louie Palu. What in actuality are loud, foul and chaotic places are made mythic and contemplative by the isolation and silence of the images. Palu’s workers are both tragic and heroic; the world they inhabit is dark and dangerous but it is also beautiful and compelling.

In Shaft Miner at the 2500 Foot Level Station Before Drilling, Louvicourt Mine, Val d’Or, Quebec, we see a solitary figure from behind, bathed in light from above, hands raised in a an empathetic yet ambiguous gesture, that, removed from it’s context, could be an act of worship. Another image shows the men of the day shift, Kerr Mine No. 3 Shaft entering the cage that will carry them below the earth. They are shot from above; we see the face of only the last man in the line, who looks up, letting light fall across his startlingly young face. The messy din of the Falconbridge Smelter is stayed so that we may see it. The shaft of light that fills the distant corners of this immense space makes its hellish nature all the more evident. Palu has found, recorded, and created an entire world that most of us will not experience except through his mediation, and he has revealed it as both horrific and full of wonder.”

(c) Louie Palu

Palu has spent recent history committed to a long stint working in Afghanistan. His editorial work has been seen the world over (in fact anyone reading this will recognise a number of his pictures).

Louie Palu’s gallery sales are represented by Kinsman Robinson Galleries and his editorial work is managed by Zuma Press and The Canadian Press.

His website redirects to a slab of pictures that will keep you surfing for days.


(c) Louie Palu

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