Broken windows. Caved in roofs. Rust and decay.
Smoke billowing from chimneys. Pipework. Cooling towers and eyesores.
What is the attraction of photographing the dirty, ugly, polluting eyesores that scar our landscape and towns? And why do photographers find 'ruin porn' so irresistible?
This website is a mix of both urbex and industrial landscape, which is why the strapline to my talks and exhibitions is 'Exploring the industrial north', which took longer to dream up than you might think, but nicely captures what my body of work (and this website) is all about.
But what's wrong with the natural landscape? Nothing, and I do enjoy a walk with my camera on the Lancashire moorland that I can see from my house. But it's not my primary interest photographically as I have a genuine interest in the urban and industrial landscape.
Allow me to indulge in a spot of personal history, it may help to provide some context. I grew up in Bolton, a large industrial town, in the shadow of its bigger, noisier neighbour, Manchester. Like many northern industrial towns, by the 1980's Bolton had lost much of its traditional industries - the last coal mines had gone in the 1960's, the textile industry was devastated in the late 50's and had been on a long slow decline ever since, and the large engineering works and foundries, of which there were many, were closed, closing, or were a shadow of their former selves.
As the town's old Victorian mills slowly succumbed to the swinging demolition balls, and to local hero Fred Dibnah's chimney felling methods, I became fascinated by the town's industrial past, and particularly in the crumbling, semi-derelict old bleach works near my house in the northern suburbs.
Despite, or maybe because of the town's industrial past, I pursued my interest in engineering and studied it to degree level in another big industrial town, Coventry. I again become fascinated by the industrial past of the city renown for its car industry and other metal bashing, before starting my career in manufacturing. Since then, I have spent my career in several different industries and my current 'day job' (I'm not a professional photographer) has taken me into industrial facilities all over Britain, as well as Europe and America.
Although I spend my working life in factories, the industrial landscape has never lost its fascination but photographing it has only been something I started doing seriously after I bought a digital camera in 2002. I've had a lifelong interest in photography, but I really started to do more of it once my career was under way. Since then, I have developed a style of photography that is a blend of interpretation and documentary. Most of my photographs are presented in monochrome as I feel this is the best way of articulating the way I see and feel about the subject matter.
You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.
Partly this is pathos. It saddens me that the foundation of our industrial base has been destroyed and thousands of highly skilled jobs have been lost forever. I've been fortunate to have been constantly employed during the 20+ years of my career, but have often been one or two steps ahead of redundancy announcements and factory closures. Maybe it will catch up with me before my career is over - we'll see.
Partly it is because it is there to make a record of - but maybe not for much longer. As I describe elsewhere, it's actually getting harder to photograph as it is rapidly disappearing, or at least the scenes worthy of photographing are. Sure, there are small industrial units everywhere, but that's not what I want to photograph - aesthetically it's less interesting and although there may be some future project in photographing a before and after series, or a social comment on new build generic business parks, they don;t interest me.
I'm not blind to the way that industry often ravage resources, pollutes our environment and exploits workers. But that's not what my pictures are about - there are a great many people looking at them from that perspective (Edward Burtynsky is a great place to start).
My perspective then is 360 degrees. I'm on the outside looking in and, and also inside looking out. As a worker, I'm watching the industrial landscape around me shrinking, as a resident of the industrial north I'm watching the landscape evolve into something new and as a photographer, I'm trying to interpret these changes through the medium of photography.
Ultimately though, I don't have an agenda. This is less of a project than it is a long term body of work. Blame my lack of art school education, but this boundless wandering is more than an academic exercise, or a passing whimsy, and I can imagine a point in the future, my ageing body and failing eyes watching as Lancashire's last chimney is torn down. I'll be there, with whatever image recording device we will be using in the future, and that will close the body of work!