Free Mines, Coal Faces is a photographic monograph by documentary landscape photographer Nick Hodgson of coal freemining in the Forest of Dean with images taken between 2019–22. In his first book, Hodgson examines this unique landscape and the fiercely independent community of freeminers.
The body of work comprises colour landscapes evidencing mining in both current and old freemines, and black-and-white portraits of members of today’s freemining community and their work. The book includes an essay by local Forest of Dean writer, John Belcher.
Published by VIKA
The typographic title is divided into two halves: above and below ground. Above ground has the lower ends of the outlines removed, like wooden pillars driven into the ground.
The typography is gothic: simple and utilitarian. It is inspired from the signs present within the mines.
Photographer Nick Hodgson’s family used to work the Arles Level Colliery. Nick wanted this stunning map to feature in the book. To feature the entire map as near to life size as possible, we divided the map into six pages and distributed them over the endpapers.
A combination of hand drawn illustration and repro work was needed to translate a vintage 4-colour scan into a one colour graphic.
The cover cloth is a textured Fedrogoni black/grey. The foil is a rustic gold/iron ore. The cover text is designed to glow like a coal fire.
‘Just when we all assumed mining has finished in the UK, Nick Hodgson finds the Forest of Dean miners, working away. His photos are excellent; he goes down the mines and gets to know the community of miners. His book Free Mines, Coal Faces is highly recommended.’
‘Victoria really understands the narrative of a photography project, has a keen editorial eye and very strong design skills which, combined with managing the repro and printing process, made the entire journey of creating and publishing my book feel as seamless as possible.’
The back cover has an overlapping envelope for a print. We wanted the print to be part of the book design to increase efficiency of the packaging. A range of prints are available throughout the edition.
‘Coal Faces’ is term used for the exposed coal deep inside the mine, ready for extraction. The central section of the book dives into the mines in a section of beautifully printed black, full bleed duotone photographs.
The contrast between the white surround of above ground and the full bleeds below, can be seen in the spine of the book.
The editorial brief was to find a mechanism through which Free Mines Coal Faces would be able to show both black and white and colour images. VIKA created a dividing concept which identified the legacy of mining and its influence on the forest in the landscapes. Photographs with no active signs of life were chosen for colour: closed mines, some reclaimed by the forest, creating curious landscapes and interventions that ramblers will stumble on for years to come.
The remainder of the book took inspiration from the images: structures informed the typography, iron ore and glowing coal inspired the cover.
The book is printed on 40% and 80 % recycled stock. The book cloth is formed from cellulose fibres and the foil is organic.