Colin Robins BA MA CertEd
Name: Colin Robins
Job Title: Lecturer in Photography
Address: Cornwall College, St Austell, Trevarthian Road, St Austell, PL25 4BU
Tel: 01726 226408
1992 to present: lecturer in photography & art history
1986 to 1992: part-time photography lecturer & free-lance photographer.
tracing the paths of kaolin and marble
'White mining' is a generic term used to describe the varying processes employed in the extraction of kaolin, marble or chalk. Although this enormous industry has a low public and visual profile, unlike coal or deep metal mining, the products developed from these raw materials are commonplace to us all. To a large extent the use of processed kaolin and marble are interchangeable within many industrial contexts. Whilst marble has an obvious historical and cultural significance as an architectural, funereal and decorative material, one of the world's largest marble mining sites, in Alabama, reduces the material to powder for industrial not aesthetic applications.
Processed kaolin or marble is ready for insertion into the substructure of our daily lives; into all manner of consumer products, into our foods, our shoes, our medicines, our vehicles and into the cabling through which pulses the electrical currents that sustain our technological and, by extension, our existential capacity to function within the modern world. An extensive industrial complex stretching from original mineral extraction, through industrial transformations, to intercontinental transportation ensures that domestic goods employing white minerals are scattered throughout the world, reaching into even the most remote of communities.
Whilst this project was initiated in the china clay regions of south-west England it has evolved to include photographs made in Italy, Belgium, Scandiavia, Alabama & Georgia in the USA, in Brazil, central China & in eastern and central Europe. A key factor linking these sites is that they tend to be found in economically and socially marginalised rural areas and the photographs concentrate on those communities living in or around the mines, plants & quarries, rather than the mining operations themselves. Dramatic, awe-inducing images of the scale of some of these operations was not what I felt necessary to record; photographs of huge machinery and vast topographies can always be found in the mining companies? annual reports, publicity materials and so forth. I was more interested in depicting the background to the mining operations; the homes, yards and gardens of the people who live next to them, people who though being geographically, ethnically and culturally distinct are nonetheless connected through being participants of a shared industrial infrastructure.
1989 - Advance from Maxwell Communication Corporation South west for a proposed book using C19 archive photographs with contemporary re-shoots
1990 - South West Regional Dance Council: 25 portraits of dancers
1991 - Sports Council of Great Britain: documentary on social activities within mid-Cornwall
1990-92 - research, production and exhibition of Merlin's Diner project exploring the continued relations between contemporary Cornwall and C19 mining communities in American mid-west. Awarded a publication bursary from Arts Council of Great Britain.
1996 - MA research into 1940s vernacular portraiture and contemporary update; acknowledging sociological and demographic changes within small rural communities.
1999 - As Dark As Light; 10x8 portraits of eclipse watchers for St Ives International/Tate St.Ives
1999 - Redruth Portraits; 5x4 portraits of 150 members of Redruth community for Cornwall County Council
2000 - photographs of a rural parish with 10x8 camera, funded by Millennium Commission
2001-2003 - support for China Clay/Marble Town project from Imerys (French mineral company) & Elmsgrant Trust. Photographing in Britain, Italy, Belgium, Georgia & Alabama in USA
2004 - awarded Winston Churchill Fellowship to support clay/marble project. Photographed in China & Brazil & Sweden. Work exhibited December 2004 in Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro.
2005 - White Mining exhibited in Kulturmagazinet, Sundsvall, Sweden.
2006 - White Mining exhibited at Eden Project, Cornwall
2007 - photographed in kaolin production sites in Ukraine.
2008 - White Mining exhibited in Arbetet Museum, Norrkoping, Sweden
2009 - photographed paper mills and kaolin production sites in Finland, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic and Germany.