fig 1. Archived 5"x4" transparencies London 2012.
Industrial Landscapes in Transition
Industrial Landscapes in Transition is the working title of a documentary research project which uses photography to record contemporary conditions of industrial settlement in selected locations across the globe. The images describe a range of urban morphologies, including abandoned land, mixed patterns of agriculture and industry, major infrastructure projects, and newly emerging industrial developments.
Modern day shifts in global capital, labour, human population, and the social landscapes of industrial production have their physical counterparts in the forms of urban development which support them. The project seeks to describe and understand the effects of these forces on the everyday working landscapes of our cities. Selected locations reflect a range of regional conditions, from landscapes of failed industry, to centres of rapid growth. To date the most complete body of work relates to Shanghai, China. Other locations visited include London and Blackburn [UK], Milan [IT], and Los Angeles [US]. Within each city’s local geography, the work focuses on areas that display compelling narratives of urban form. These may appear at the heart of the city, as in Shanghai where working container yards sit adjacent to fresh high rise developments, or at the city’s periphery, for example the scattered and ill-defined landscapes of east London’s Thames-side industry.
fig 2. Fuxing island with brick barges unloading, view from the roof of Shanghai Ocean University Shanghai 2006.
fig 3. Transparency with detail of workers unloading brick barges at Fuxing Island Shanghai 2006.
The photographs are all taken from high level vantage points, by gaining access to tall buildings, bridges and industrial structures. The elevation of the camera position, typically between 30 and 150 metres above ground level, sets a perspective field somewhere between the detachment of a true aerial view, and the immediate narrative of a street level approach. The use of traditional large format film photography allows a practical combination of portability and high resolution. The amount of information contained in each 5 inch x 4 inch film transparency is very high, easily matching the capabilities of high-end digital cameras. The geometry of the traditional field camera’s shift lens is used to place the perspective horizon high within the camera’s field of view.
This project was initially supported by a grant from the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts [UK]. Thanks also goes to the photographers Wout Berger in Amsterdam and Sue Barr in London, who have both offered invaluable advice on both approach and technique. The work is planned to be the subject of a future publication and exhibition.