Mark Power – The Shot I Never Forgot
‘Rufford Colliery, Mansfield. 1992’
This picture is from a series made in 1992 called The Dignity of Labour, for which I photographed some of the more ‘challenging’ professions in Britain.
I’d always wanted to visit a working coal mine and this was probably my last chance; Rufford Colliery, situated about five miles northeast of Mansfield, was one of the last surviving pits in Nottinghamshire, not to mention Britain. The men knew their mining days were numbered, and there was much anger and disappointment in the rank-smelling air at the coalface.
In the preceding weeks I’d been reading the complete works of D. H. Lawrence and my mind was full of the romance of it all. But my day at Rufford Colliery put paid to that; this was a tough job, probably the toughest of all those I photographed throughout the project.
That said, only last week I met a man in Stoke-on-Trent who had spend thirty years as a miner, before losing his job in 1991. Without hesitation he declared he’d go back tomorrow, if only he could. Coincidentally, a few days before, in the same city, I chanced upon this poignant quote from John D Rockefeller, engraved into a modest monument to (former) Stoke steelworkers: “I believe in the Dignity of Labour, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living”.