Daniel Chatard: “Niemandsland”

Finalist 2018: Daniel Chatard

For his “Niemandsland” (No Man’s Land) project, Daniel Chatard journeyed to the brown coal district in North Rhine-Westphalia – right into the heart of the action, where an apparently endless conflict is being played out between long-term locals, environmental activists, mining employees and the police.

The degree of wealth created by industry in Germany is equal to the country’s impact on global climate change. In the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, brown coal mining provides employment and produces energy; at the same time, it represents an intrusion into a highly sensitive ecosystem that can have devastating consequences. With his “Niemandsland” images, Daniel Chatard wants to draw attention precisely to this: “The more people who become sensitized to the issue and apply pressure to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, the better.” Protests, demonstrations and police interventions are not rare events in the Rhine’s brown coal district, with environmental activists and RWE Power (one of the largest employers in the region) workers fiercely facing off. It is a determined conflict with no solution in sight.

“A photo should always convey a feeling. This means that the photographer needs to take a stance with regard to whatever is being photographed.”

Chatard himself wants brown coal subsidies to be brought to an end as quickly as possible – partly also because Germany is currently experiencing an excess of electricity production. This means that there is no necessity to continue supporting brown coal to such a degree. This wish, however, is utopian, as the power stations are supposed to continue in production until the 2040s – which means that the conflict regarding pulling out of coal must likely continue just as long. For Chatard, this makes it all the more important to draw attention to this no man’s land, as more awareness about the problem may at least ensure a limit to the damage in the future.

Daniel Chatard

After receiving a camera as a gift, Chatard slowly, but surely, developed a strong interest in photography. Born in Heidelberg in 1996, he is now studying Photojournalism and Documentary Photography in Hanover, and currently doing a semester abroad in Tomsk, Russia. To date his work has appeared in publications such as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the Weser-Kurier and Neon.

Portrait: © Aliona Kardash