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Blood And Iron: Photographing The 'End Of The Industrial Revolution'

  • Amos Chapple
Czech photographer Viktor Macha is determined to capture "the beauty of steel and iron making" before automation takes over and the sight of men working in the glow of molten metal is lost forever.

A foundry worker at Kosaya Gora Ironworks, just south of Moscow. Industrial photographer Viktor Macha says that "sooner or later, we will know this kind of work only through pictures and movies."
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A foundry worker at Kosaya Gora Ironworks, just south of Moscow. Industrial photographer Viktor Macha says that "sooner or later, we will know this kind of work only through pictures and movies."

Grinders at work in Plzen in the Czech Republic. Macha, 32, argues that "the industrial revolution is over already."
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Grinders at work in Plzen in the Czech Republic. Macha, 32, argues that "the industrial revolution is over already."

An iron foundry near Chelyabinsk, Russia. "When I look at the old maps from the '60s and '70s there were factories on every corner," Macha told RFE/RL. "Now we have lost, like, 80 percent and [these losses] are growing."
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An iron foundry near Chelyabinsk, Russia. "When I look at the old maps from the '60s and '70s there were factories on every corner," Macha told RFE/RL. "Now we have lost, like, 80 percent and [these losses] are growing."

Dumping of slag in Nikopol, Ukraine. As new technology replaces workers, employment in heavy industry has been shrinking fast. A former steelworker in the United States said in a recent interview, "in the [1970s], it took 10 workers to make a ton of steel; now it takes one.”
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Dumping of slag in Nikopol, Ukraine. As new technology replaces workers, employment in heavy industry has been shrinking fast. A former steelworker in the United States said in a recent interview, "in the [1970s], it took 10 workers to make a ton of steel; now it takes one.”

Photographer Viktor Macha working with his Nikon D800E camera and 24-millimeter tilt-shift lens. Macha has photographed more than 150 metalworking plants over the past 10 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and says the most difficult part of his job is obtaining permits: "It's hard as hell."
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Photographer Viktor Macha working with his Nikon D800E camera and 24-millimeter tilt-shift lens. Macha has photographed more than 150 metalworking plants over the past 10 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and says the most difficult part of his job is obtaining permits: "It's hard as hell."

A fearsome-looking rolling machine in Chatelet, Belgium. "It takes between three months and five years to get permission to photograph these places."
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A fearsome-looking rolling machine in Chatelet, Belgium. "It takes between three months and five years to get permission to photograph these places."

Cooling steel bars in Labedy, Poland. "Next month, I'm going to shoot a mill in Serbia that took eight years to arrange permission [for]," Macha says.
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Cooling steel bars in Labedy, Poland. "Next month, I'm going to shoot a mill in Serbia that took eight years to arrange permission [for]," Macha says.

Teeming steel ingots in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine. "It's actually much easier nowadays to get permissions in former Soviet countries," Macha says.
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Teeming steel ingots in Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine. "It's actually much easier nowadays to get permissions in former Soviet countries," Macha says.

Preparing a ladle of molten steel in Groeditz, Germany. "There is the terrorist threat in Western Europe, which makes visiting mills in France, for example, absolutely impossible." Macha says. 
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Preparing a ladle of molten steel in Groeditz, Germany. "There is the terrorist threat in Western Europe, which makes visiting mills in France, for example, absolutely impossible." Macha says. 

A grinder pauses for a portrait in a foundry in Plzen in the Czech Republic.
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A grinder pauses for a portrait in a foundry in Plzen in the Czech Republic.

A worker directing the flow of molten iron at a foundry in the eastern Czech Republic. Macha's main profession is dealing with rental properties in the Czech capital, Prague. "The photography is just a kind of hobby that has grown out of control," he says.
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A worker directing the flow of molten iron at a foundry in the eastern Czech Republic. Macha's main profession is dealing with rental properties in the Czech capital, Prague. "The photography is just a kind of hobby that has grown out of control," he says.

"Creature of industry" in Donetsk, Ukraine. "I'm not some artsy photographer," Macha told RFE/RL. "I'm not even very interested in photography. It's just the best medium for recording the production cycle."
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"Creature of industry" in Donetsk, Ukraine. "I'm not some artsy photographer," Macha told RFE/RL. "I'm not even very interested in photography. It's just the best medium for recording the production cycle."

Workers taking a metal sample inside the foundry in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine. While photographing one foundry in eastern Ukraine, Macha was told he had arrived a couple of weeks after a worker was crushed to death.
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Workers taking a metal sample inside the foundry in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine. While photographing one foundry in eastern Ukraine, Macha was told he had arrived a couple of weeks after a worker was crushed to death.

Workers on the floor of a steelworks in Donetsk, Ukraine. Macha says a colleague of the dead worker told him that, in order to avoid paying health insurance, "We took the body and threw it over the fence, and called the ambulance there so it hadn't happened in [the mill's] territory."
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Workers on the floor of a steelworks in Donetsk, Ukraine. Macha says a colleague of the dead worker told him that, in order to avoid paying health insurance, "We took the body and threw it over the fence, and called the ambulance there so it hadn't happened in [the mill's] territory."

The working floor of Kosaya Gora Iron Works, Russia. Shortly after making this image, Macha says he slipped going down a narrow stairwell and slashed open his arm. Bleeding heavily, he made his way to a nearby hospital. "It was not good, the hospitals in this part of Russia are in very bad condition." 
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The working floor of Kosaya Gora Iron Works, Russia. Shortly after making this image, Macha says he slipped going down a narrow stairwell and slashed open his arm. Bleeding heavily, he made his way to a nearby hospital. "It was not good, the hospitals in this part of Russia are in very bad condition." 

Portrait of a "grinder" in protective equipment in a foundry in Blansko in the Czech Republic. Grinders blast casts clean with sandy water.
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Portrait of a "grinder" in protective equipment in a foundry in Blansko in the Czech Republic. Grinders blast casts clean with sandy water.

A Donetsk steel plant photographed in 2012. The plant has shut down since the war sparked by Russia-backed separatists began in 2014. Macha says the conflict prevents iron ore from reaching the plant. "I think that the work has probably finished there forever now," he adds.  
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A Donetsk steel plant photographed in 2012. The plant has shut down since the war sparked by Russia-backed separatists began in 2014. Macha says the conflict prevents iron ore from reaching the plant. "I think that the work has probably finished there forever now," he adds.

 

An abandoned mercury plant in Horlivka, Ukraine. The crumbling structure has since been demolished. Macha says a local man guiding him around the polluted ruins pointed to one of the ponds and said, "If you drink this water, you will be mutant," and wiggled six fingers on one hand. 
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An abandoned mercury plant in Horlivka, Ukraine. The crumbling structure has since been demolished. Macha says a local man guiding him around the polluted ruins pointed to one of the ponds and said, "If you drink this water, you will be mutant," and wiggled six fingers on one hand. 

Pouring slag in Chatelet, Belgium. Macha says his love of heavy industry was passed down through generations of iron and steelworkers on both sides of his family.
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Pouring slag in Chatelet, Belgium. Macha says his love of heavy industry was passed down through generations of iron and steelworkers on both sides of his family.

Under the blast furnace in Duisburg, Germany. "I was brought up to see heavy industry as this positive thing; not some dirty, polluting work, but as something which gives jobs," Macha says.
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Under the blast furnace in Duisburg, Germany. "I was brought up to see heavy industry as this positive thing; not some dirty, polluting work, but as something which gives jobs," Macha says.

A worker directing slag into a ladle in Satka, Russia. "I want to have something to show my kids after this world has disappeared," Macha says.
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A worker directing slag into a ladle in Satka, Russia. "I want to have something to show my kids after this world has disappeared," Macha says.

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