subjects of interest

There are a number of themes that have long fascinated me and that I continue to document photographically. Recently I have been spending more time on following up my interest for (old) industrial buildings but all the themes have waxed and waned over the years. So here you will find galleries of vernacular lettering, shops and markets, machines, industrial buildings, workshops and other subjects that I've recorded since about 1970. These are the first of what I hope will be a number of galleries that I will be putting online in the (near) future.

industrial buildings

Since retiring I have been spending more time on photography and this has led to the rediscovery of a long-lost love for old industrial buildings. The Netherlands has a rich industrial past; the area around the River Zaan to the north of Amsterdam for example was one of the earliest industrial zones in Europe. Fortunately many buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries still survive today and are often still in use, although at the same time many lesser-known examples are fast disappearing. Sometimes they have been designated heritage sites whilst others are 're-developed' as cultural centres, offices, etc. Unfortunately they then usually lose some of the raw functionality and atmosphere of the original and wherever possible this is what I try to capture. There seems to be something about the proud and sturdy brickwork or towering concrete structures of these places where so much hard labour has been played out in the past that get my juices flowing. I usually do some research at home first and then take a car trip to promising neighbourhoods with my trusty folding bike, cruising around at my own pace and snapping any interesting discoveries en route.

silos

There's something about these big, sentinel-like towers that fascinates me. Maybe its the feeling of pure functionality they exude or my curiosity about what might be rushing about inside them or what those tiny windows in some of them might be for...

factories & warehouses

Old, sometimes abandoned, these often brickbuilt places of work for the former industrial worker are gradually disappearing. Sometimes they are saved for repurposing or redevelopment but then they seem to lose their original nobility...

factory doors

Sometimes large and massive, sometimes small and discrete. This is a collection of some of the doorways into factories I've come across over the years.
(Under construction)

lodges

For the site manager, security guard, director or others: intriguing, (small) houses and offices on industrial sites. These are some of the ones I've managed to capture before they disappear...

antwerp

At the beginning of December in 2017 I went down to Antwerp, the large and bustling harbour city in the north of Belgium for a few days. My aim was to capture some of the wonderful old industrial buildings that can still be seen in and around the harbours there. The weather was bitingly cold and the sky was dull and overcast which lent a somewhat gloomy tone to many of the shots. But the effort was worth it. As is often the case in Belgium, I was able to get up close to some of the last remaining grain silos in the 'Amerikadok' and walk around unhinderd. Like many others, these magnificent buildings are currently under threat of demolition to make way for modern offices, apartments and factory 'boxes' as the city pushes aside its history and renews itself. So I was glad to be able to see them before they perhaps vanish forever...

former belgian coalmines

I took a trip down to the north of Belgium recently to explore what's left of the former coal mining industry there. At Beringen just across the Dutch border to the south of Eindhoven there are the remains of a large site that is gradually being renovated. The coal washing plant is under threat of demolition though, so I wanted to see it before it goes. I was quite surprised that I could get up so close to it and also get a remarkable view from the top of a former spoil heap alongside. Local and other activists are fighting to have it listed as a monument but sadly its future is by no means certain...

A little further east are two other former sites. At Houthalen a pair of old pit-heads soar above the surrounding countryside like giant praying mantises squaring up for a confrontation. It's good to see that these magnificent steel edifices have been preserved for the coming years. At a place called Heusden-Zolder there is a larger site that, like Beringen, is slowly being renovated and converted for use again. The old pit-head there is yet to be tackled so it was in a wonderful state of splendid decay. Hopefully it won't be spruced up too much and retain some of its rugged heft for the future.

old painted wall ads

Both in The Netherlands or whenever we take a trip abroad I always make a point of looking out for any examples of what I call 'vernacular lettering'. These are usually signs or notices of some kind executed by a local craftsman and that always seem to have a functional yet noble air about them. Alongside shop façades and name plates I have also recorded situations where lettering has been painted directly onto a wall, usually for advertising purposes. It must have taken quite some considerable skill and craftsmanship to get the text or image to work at such a large scale. It's also interesting to see that quite often new ads have been painted over old ones leading to some lovely 'double speak' as the ads have gradually faded over the years. Sadly, with the arrival of the billboard there has been a steady decline in the number of these painted wall ads that can still be seen. 

anderton boat lift | 1975

In 1975 I took a trip up to the North Midlands of England to visit the famous Iron Bridge and more particularly the boat lift at Anderton. This extraordinary device was built to raise and lower canal narrowboats between the River Weaver and the Trent & Mersey Canal near Anderton in Cheshire. Designed by Edwin Clarke it was initially designed for hydraulic operation when opened in 1875 but was converted to electrical power in 1908 and this was the form in which I encountered it in 1975. 

The lift was in a poor state of repair as the canals at that time did not enjoy the poularity and support they do today. Nonetheless it still retained much of its impressive scale and grandeur. I was able to move around the lift freely and get very close to it. On the map I have tried to reconstruct roughly where I took the shots from. The pictures are scans of Kodachrome slides I took using my (then still very new) Nikkormat 35mm camera in an attempt to capture some of this fabulous heavy metal.

the regent's canal 40 years on...

As far as I can recall, sometime in 1976 I took a bike ride along the towpath of the Regent's Canal in London. In those days the canal was literally and metaphorically an untended backwater that was mostly home to the last vestiges of industry in the capital. Recently I rediscovered the 35mm negatives of the shots I took en route. The slightly haunting images prompted me to revisit the sites this year to see how things had changed...

'ascenseurs' | canal du centre

Just outside Charleroi in Belgium there is a small town called Strepy-Thieu which is famous for having the highest boat lift in the World. This one lift ( ascenseur ) was constructed to replace the work done by four older ones that had been built at the turn of the 20th century by Edwin Clarke of Anderton boat lift fame. Contrary to the Anderton lift, the four Belgian lifts are operated hydraulically. They are remarkably accessible, quietly marking the past glories of the old Canal du Centre.

workshops

I have always been attracted to the wonderful organised messiness of workshops. These places of work somehow seem to perfectly strike the right balance between improvisation and method. No esthetics or 'design' here, just straightforward functionality and personal logic in an environment where jobs are organised and tackled at the convenience of the occupant. Sometimes they are places of professional work, sometimes of enthusiastic amateurs whilst others are simply the domestic workplaces we all recognise. Yet they manage to achieve a sense of beauty and order all of their own. Somehow they seem to reflect the mind of the user who usually knows just where everything is, however chaotic it may appear to the outside eye...