Egoli Gas

I have been commissioned by Fourthwall Books to photograph the gasworks in Johannesburg which lie adjacent to the 44 Stanley complex of small businesses, big businesses and medium businesses, clothing shops, interior decor shops run by unfriendly deco lamps come to dim-lit life, Buchladen and galleries.

I don’t need to document all the equipment and the buildings in illustrative fashion because there are tens of thousands of Gasworks around the world which employ the same gear and were operational during the 20th Century. If the machinery wasn’t imported it was built here under copyright.

The place has gone to seed and the tendrils of creeper and weird industrial shapes which lie under the grass on the knolls interest me more. The complex consists of three ‘retorts’. A retort is a cavity in which coal is fired. A bench consists of many retorts which doesn’t sound very courtly, does it?

I have spent about a week traipsing around the site and will return to finish the series of photographs before the New Year.

With the portraits I tried to give a sense of Arcadia impending.

It’s all shot on some very old KODAK Vericolor 3 Type S film which has a rating of ISO 160 but really needs to be shot at ISO 50, or ISO 10 if reciprocity failure needs to be factored in. The final post on these images hasn’t been performed and the film has a slight pink base.

I introduced the site to Ivan Vladislavic via a 2.5 hr snoop around which involved some scrambling given the utter lack of planning and concealed subterranean voids in the toxic sump of the precinct. When we were done, he said ‘I know why you like photography, it gives you the excuse to bugger around in places which you wouldn’t normally see.’ It’s the truth.


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