Photographic archives are a potential source of knowledge in industrial heritage. This paper deals with the case of the main mining sites developed in Francoist Spain to produce energy. Historic photographs are not only a description of the original forms, dispositions, and uses of an industrial complex, nor are they only a register of social implications of labor. They contribute to recognition of a more complex understanding of the heritage significance of obsoletes landscapes nowadays. This paper analyzes the photographic archives as an aesthetical footprint related to the narration of meanings, symbols, and identity.
After World War II, Spain was politically and economically isolated. In 1944, the government established four main industrial complexes that would guarantee the national electricity and oil supply—three of them made use of large new mines of coal and oil sands. This paper assesses the evolution of the visual discourse in these three case studies. First, the paper explains the planning strategy and the construction process of these key places through primary sources from the National Institute of Industry. Although these images were not taken with an artistic intention, the photographers tried to bring to light some aesthetic qualities and give meanings to the technical phenomenon. Which concepts, categories, or aesthetic discourses did the most celebrated photographers use? These images are closely related to the "technological sublime" and allow us to study some variations in the emotional relationship of the individual with his surroundings.
The second stage of this paper analyzes the multidirectional deviation of the visual discourse since the seventies. The photographers progressively identified the value of these landscapes of energy obsoletes at that time. Some artists represented the outdated landscape through romantic views, and some of them even disguised it with a natural cover. How is the transition from the "technological sublime" to the "technological ruin" produced? Are the cultural meanings voided by the heritagization process? Looking at the reminiscences that emerge nowadays when these landscapes are reactivated, we can hypothesize that meanings are always being reinvented.