The Ghost Town of Pommenige
Germany

Brown coal is shallow, low-grade, dirty-burning, and all over (under) central Germany. This proudly industrial country greatly relies on the electricity that comes from brown coal, which, in turn, comes from just below its ancient (by American standards) towns and villages.

The system necessitates that massive swaths of territory (by Germany standards) are cleared in order to keep its electro-economic machine, as it were, going. When a village sits atop the brown coal vein, and the power companies gigantic power shovels get hungry, it’s simply their bad luck. Time to move.

One side of the street is demolished. The other is not.
One side of the street is demolished. The other is not.

Welcome to Pommenige as it looked in its last days. By the time you read these words, this village will be a hole in the ground—a small part of an even bigger hole.

One thing that has fascinated me since I was a child was the way that pictures seemed to preserve things and people. As an adult, I appreciate how intangibles are encoded into images too. For example, there’s a picture of Hamm’s Brewery that puts the scent of the its caves in my nose every time, like mud mixed with rotting grain.

A social club/restaurant that was likely the place to be late at night.
A social club/restaurant that was likely the place to be late at night.

A certain picture of my grandfather that I snapped with my first camera with his wrinkled hands wrapped around his bearded chin reminds me of his voice. Memories, feelings, notions, wishes, and hopes… these get captured, too, when the shutter clicks.

With this in mind, I crossed the barricades of the doomed town with my last roll of Ektar 100 loaded into my Pentax 67. I had twelve tries to capture something the essence of the village before it was demolished and the nearby shovel gutted the landscape.

Can you hear the shovel swinging back and forth, where the neighboring town, Pier, was not too long ago? Can you taste the dust whipping between abandoned homes? Can you see the boarded front doors to the dairy, under the keystone marked “Anno 1815”? If so, then we can be certain that this town, in some way, persists.

This building was 99 years old when it was demolished for the coal mine.
This building was 99 years old when it was demolished for the coal mine.