Oliver Woods

Oliver Woods (born in 1970) studied painting and sculpture at Liverpool John Moores University, and later also became a radio journalist. He now divides his time between photography and working as a radio producer for the BBC World Service. Oliver’s photographs have appeared in a number of international magazines, including: The Financial Times Weekend Magazine, Newsweek Japan, El Mundo, VG (Norway) and The Sunday Times Magazine. He recently won the Joan Wakelin Award for the Royal Photographic Society. Today we feature his series titled, Red Star, Black Gold.

Steam Trains at Lutien Mine


Train Depot, Lutien Mine.

Red Star, Black Gold

This images in this series are about how Chinese factories and manufacturing has been fired by an insatiable appetite for coal.

Over the last few decades, China has become the new workshop of the world. Factory output there now outstrips that of America, and, despite the recent economic slowdown, Chinese manufacturing is still the back-bone of the economy. From iPhones to luxury handbags, from car parts to plastic toys – the world has become dependent on all manner of goods made in Chinese factories; and the Chinese economy has boomed.

But the power behind this massive economic growth has come from electricity derived from coal. China is still the world’s largest user of coal, and since 2008 has been building at least one new coal-fired power station each week. China burns over 3 billion tonnes of coal each year, the majority of which is used in power stations and factories, especially in heavy industries like steel production and chemical manufacturing.

Much of this coal comes from Inner Mongolia, which has vast coal reserves and where these photographs were taken in 2009. Lutien Mine is very close to the border with Russia, on the edge of Siberia and is one of the largest open cast mines in the region. The nearby Dongfanghong coal factory washes and grades the coal, which is sent by rail across China for use in power stations and factories.

Train Worker IV

Railway worker at Lutien mine, Inner Mongolia

Railway worker III

Pit workers commute to the centre of Lutien mine

Steam train delivering coal in Lutien mine

Coal Train at Dongfanghong

Lutien Mine (Fading Light)

His work has been featured in the Format International Photo Festival 2013 in Derby UK, Lensculture online magazine, and won Judges Choice in the Association of Photographers Open and has been shown in the Royal Academy. Oliver is working on photographic projects that seek to combine themes and narratives in a visually compelling and imaginative way. He is based in London.

To view more of Oliver’s work, please visit his website.