Heroes of Labour.
Photographs by Gleb Kosorukov.
Steidl, 2014. 192 pp., 100 color illustrations, 9½x13".
On 31 August 1935 Alexej Stakhanov, a jackhammer operator at Central-Irmino coal mine, mined a record 102 tonnes of coal in 5 hours and 45 minutes (14 times his daily quota). The launch of an unprecedented state-run campaign for popularising extraordinary labour achievements made Stakhanov a Soviet hero par excellence. Soon after, his portrait appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. For the first time ever a worker was elevated to worldwide fame for his performance at work. Since then the term 'Stakhanovism' has defined ecstatic labour and over-accomplishment at work as a form of heroism. On the 74th anniversary of Stakhanov's achievement, Gleb Kosorukov began a photographic research project on the identity of modern miners as an archetype of the working class, affected by the changing value of material labour and decline of social justice. He took 100 portraits of miners during shift changes at the biggest mine in Europe, located in Eastern Ukraine, which bears the name of Stakhanov. Due to the neoliberal pressure of global capitalism and the radical changes in the nature of the labour market, Ukrainian mines are closing apace, more than 100,000 miners stand to loose their jobs within the next five years.Gleb Kosorukov's work is an attempt to examine what is left of the miner-myth in the image of the worker-heroes of today.
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