Photographing behind the scenes at any large power producing area can be difficult not only to obtain entry but also to capture the massive scale to do the area justice. The areas are normally bustling with workers, smoke from the machines, and dust from the ground. Traveling to these destinations, however, will help show the world just what goes on behind that power that they use daily.
Behind the scenes at one of the oldest power suppliers in Greece is a photographer who is so intrigued by the landscape of the mines. Georgios Tatakis said that the area “looked surreal to me, resembling of a moonlike landscape.” Continuing, ”Having an engineering background myself, such engineering environments are very interesting to me.”
The PPC (Power Public Corporation) is one of the oldest supplier in Greece while the power stations and mines in Macedonia are the largest in the Balkans. The images he presented were eerie and surreal. The massive machinery used in these mines seemed something from the set of “Mad Max.” Unlike the movie, these machines supply something we perhaps take for granted daily.
“Lignite exists in abundance in Greece, which is the second largest producer in the European Union and sixth largest in the world,” said Tatakis. “The quantity has been calculated to suffice for the following 45 years. 62.5 metric tons have been mined during 2006.” Eight lignite power stations adding up to 42 percent of the installed power of the PPC produce 56 percent of its total electricity output. The use of the lignite produce power to Greece while being safe to transport and is considered a controllable cost fuel.
The mines and power stations provide employment to over 10,000 employees including permanent staff and external crew. Tatakis explained that based on the total exploitable lignite reserves, along with the rate of consumption in the future, these reserves will be sufficient for over 45 years. Greece maintains a large area of peat in Eastern Macedonia. “Reserves in this deposit are estimated at 4 billion cubic meters, equivalent to about 125 million tons of oil,” Tatakis said.
If you are hired through assignment or given access to photograph these types of areas, Tatakis suggests to play with scale when dealing with massive machinery. Reference the size of the machines or area with objects, people, or animals of known size. This will help the viewer understand the true size of the equipment, and usually gain a larger understanding of them.
Safety is a large concern when on the grounds. Many years ago I photographed a power plant here in the states. Even before entering the area, mandatory safety videos were shown to me before they would grant access. “I am quite [accustomed to] such environments as an engineer, but of course I always used protective gear — helmet, gloves, industrial grade shoes, glasses, and reflective jacket,” said Tatakis. “An experienced employee of the company was with me all the times to ensure my safety as well.”
Images used with permission of Georgios Tatakis.