Michał Łuczak Extraction
I was born, raised and continue to live with my family in Upper Silesia, a region of southern Poland where hard coal has been mined for more than 200 years. Near our home, a mine extracts coal from a depth of more than 1,000 metres. A second mine was closed a couple of years ago after 135 years of operation.
Our house is visibly crooked, although its inhabitants no longer feel the slant. Outside, the pavement sinks into the ground. This process — the result of mining operations hollowing out the earth — will continue long after the last mine has been sealed. Across the street from the house is a spoil tip: a heap of mining waste overgrown with pioneer plants. Eventually, someone will haul it away as raw material for road construction, and the pile will be gone. In winter, residents can see the baleful air they breathe.
I admit that unfortunately we contribute to this problem ourselves, because our crooked house has a boiler in the basement that burns what is rosily branded as “eco-pea” coal.
Since 1989, when Communism collapsed in Poland, Upper Silesia has undergone constant transformation. Most of the region’s mines have been closed because the deposits are exhausted, or the seams are too deep to be profitable. A few years ago, the Polish government announced that, by 2049, there would be no more coal mines operating in the country.
Extraction is my record of the multilevel experience of living in the shadow of a mine, and a visual representation of mining’s impact on landscape, architecture, the air, and humans.
About the author
Katowice, Poland, 1983
Łuczak is a photographer, visual artist and curator working on the complex and exploitative relationship of humans with their immediate surroundings and the wider natural environment. He has recently focused on local issues with global relevance, particularly the consequences of coal mining and the economic utilisation of forests.
Łuczak received a BA in Iberian Studies at the University of Silesia in Katowice, and a PhD at the Institute of Creative Photography at Silesian University in Opava, Czech Republic.
Solo exhibitions of Łuczak's work have been held at MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków, Poland (2018) and the Silesian Museum in Katowice (2019). As a member of the Sputnik Photos collective, he has exhibited at FOTODOK in Utrecht, the Netherlands (2014) and the Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (2016–17).
He received an honourable mention in the Magnum Expression Awards (2009), was a winner at the MIO Photo Awards in Osaka, Japan (2010), and has won Polish Photographic Publication of the Year (2013). He has also been a recipient of a grant from the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (2021).
Łuczak is the author of several photo books: Brutal (2012), Koło miejsca / Elementarz, (Circle of Places / Primer), with Krzysztof Siwczyk (2016), and 11.41, with Filip Springer (2016).
He has been a member of Sputnik Photos since 2010, co-leading its annual documentary photography workshop. He teaches at the Faculty of Art of the Pedagogical University of Kraków.
Hoda Afshar, Speak the Wind, 2015–2020
Gera Artemova, War Diary, 2022
Ragnar Axelsson, Where the World Is Melting, 2016
Alessandro Cinque, Peru, a Toxic State, 2017
Siân Davey, The Garden, 2022
Federico Ríos Escobar, Paths of Desperate Hope, 2022
Gauri Gill, Notes from the Desert, 1999-ongoing
Michał Łuczak, Extraction, 2017
Yael Martínez , Luciérnaga (Firefly), 2021
Richard Renaldi, Disturbed Harmonies, 2023
Vanessa Winship, Sweet Nothings: Schoolgirls of Eastern Anatolia, 2007
Vasantha Yogananthan, Mystery Street, 2022