themes

There are a number of themes that have long fascinated me and that I continue to explore, at the moment mostly photographically. Some have persisted longer than others and they have all waxed and waned a bit over the years but at some point I usually return to investigate one or more of them further...

So I frequently find myself coming back to the dilapidation and dirty, ramshackle jumble of old, often abandoned industrial buildings and sites that have evolved haphazardly over the years… or by contrast the tightly organised complexity of modern industry.  The quirky unpredictability and wonderfully eclectic non-design of folk art and vernacular design.  Old shop interiors, markets and displays of goods and wares… The flashy decoration and brashness of the fairground.  The seaside where nature and the vulgar exhuberance of the leisure industry mingle uneasily together.   Handcrafted lettering on walls, shop façades and other signs.  The simple pleasure of a landscape caught at an atmospheric moment.  The beautiful, organised chaos of garages, workshops, studios and other places of work an individual has created for themself.  The often bizarre and ideosyncratic contrasts thrown up by urban life.
 
Whenever I can I organise a trip to what looks like might be a promising location to see what I can find there and this may lead to a dedicated gallery of shots. Other times I assemble a collection of images from various shoots that somehow seem to have a common thread to them

the zaan

I first discovered the Zaan area, just to the north of Amsterdam, sometime in 1999. Although instantly captivated by the sight of a factory with a massive eagle atop it, I was unaware of the history and importance of this long-standing industrial area that had developed along the banks of the River Zaan from the 16th century. Since then I have returned several times with a better - but by no means complete - understanding of the area and have attempted to capture some of the splendid industrial buildings I have been fortunate to see there

Zaanstreek-story
Ghent-story

ghent

In January 2020, just before the corona virus changed all our lives forever, I visited the city of Ghent in the north of Belgium for a few days. Although its charming and car-free city centre suggests otherwise, Ghent has long been a major centre of industry. As I am mostly interested in (the traces of) late 19th and mid 20th century industry I was curious to see what still remained of this period of Ghent’s trading and manufacturing past as the city continues to grow and change in these 21st century times. For this visit, with limited time available to me, I thought three areas looked promising: the older port areas, the area to the north of the Union Canal and the inner city...

a year at scheveningen

Year-at-Scheveningen

During 2019 I often found myself enjoying a bike ride up to Scheveningen, the beach resort attached to The Hague. I was fascinated to see how it changed month by month and decided to take panorama shots of the beach from the same spot every time I was there. It’s amazing to see how the beach and skies change from the deserted winter-time scenes, including the enormous (and in 2018 controversial) beach bonfire, to the arrival of the cafés in March, the tourists in July, August and then back to the quiet times of Autumn and Winter when Scheveningen is a favourite spot just for the locals.

former belgian coalmines

Beringen story
Heusden Zolder-story

beringen and… houthalen, heusden-zolder

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.

Antwerp_dec17

port of antwerp

At the beginning of December in 2017 I went to Antwerp, the large and bustling port 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 there. The weather was bitingly cold and the sky was overcast which lent a fittingly gloomy tone to many of the shots...

collections

It is intriguing to note how often common characteristics appear over a wide range of locations, items and situations. Similar in appearance and function yet often surprisingly different in execution and detail. Here are some collections of similar things found in all sorts of different places.

Brickbuilt_silos

brick-built silos

It’s interesting to see how early, brick-built silos have often been added to as new construction methods have come along. The small brick originals become dwarfed by the concrete and, later, steel-cladded extensions around them…

Factories

factories

Factories in one form or another have become a permanent and familiar part of our environment. As technology and ideas have changed so too has the design and appearance of these bustling places of manufacture...

Workshops

workshops

How fascinating the wonderful organised messiness of workshops is! These places of work somehow seem to perfectly strike the right balance between improvisation and method. No esthetics or 'design’ here...

Lodges

lodges

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

Factory_doors

industrial doors

Sometimes large and imposing, sometimes small and discrete, sometimes metal, sometimes wooden, sometimes hinged, sometimes sliding. This is a collection of some industrial doors I've come across over the years.

warehouses

warehouses

Many of the magnificent warehouses built during the 19th and 20th centuries have gradually been repurposed for modern use. Here a collection of some examples together with some who's future is less certain...

Lorries_from_1974

lorries 1974

In 1974 I spent an enjoyable day shooting tanker-type lorries for an illustration job I had been asked to do. So for the lorry-lovers here is a collection of some classic but often rather scruffy golden oldies.

Concrete_silos

concrete silos

The new technique of slip-forming concrete meant that silos could now be built taller and more quickly than their brick-built predecessors. Here a collection of some interesting examples, both old and new, I have found.

shopfronts

shopfronts

On our highstreets shopfronts come and shopfronts go but some seem to go on forever. Sometimes chic and classy, sometimes down to earth, here is a small collection of some I've snapped over the years.

shop_fascias

shop fascias

The fascia is perhaps the most important element of a shopfront, the place where the name of the establishment is proudly displayed. Here a small collection of the many I have recorded over time.

displays

displays

How goods can best be displayed by the ordinary shop owner or stallholder is a fascinating study of unsung vernacular design that deftly employs the feeling of abundance to attract customers. Here are some examples...

faded_wall_ads

faded wall ads & signs

I'm always on the look out for any examples of hand-crafted lettering. Sadly, with the arrival of the billboard there has been a steady decline in the number of painted wall ads that can still be seen...

ascenseurs canal du centre

Strepy-Thieu-boat-lift

The small town of Strepy-Thieu in Belgium is famous for having the highest boat lift in the World. This one lift was constructed to replace the work done by four hydraulic 'ascenseurs' built in the early 1900’s by Edwin Clarke of Anderton boat lift fame. They are remarkably accessible, quietly marking the past glories of the old Canal du Centre. A little further to the north is another feature of the new canal: the extraordinary inclined plane at Ronquières...

Ascenseurs-Canal-du-Centre

poland 1990 and 1996

On two occasions I was lucky enough to be part of a group of lecturers and students that visited Poland in the 90’s, once in 1990 to Poznan and Skoki, and again in 1996 to Gdansk, Sopot and Gdynia.
Coming across the 35mm shots I took at the time I wondered what these places would be like now. I decided to investigate and was surprised to discover what was still there and what seems to have vanished

Zaanstreek-story

regent’s canal then and now

Regents_Canal_old
Regents_Canal_new

In 1976 I went for a bike ride along the towpath of the Regent's Canal in London. The canal then was an untended backwater, home to the last vestiges of industry in the capital. Recently I rediscovered the 35mm shots I took en route. The slightly haunting images prompted me to revisit the sites in 2016 to see how things had changed...

Anderton_boatlift_1975

the 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 converted to electrical power in 1908. In 1975 the lift was in a poor state of repair as the canals at that time did not enjoy the popularity and support they do today so I was able to move around the lift freely and get very close up to it. 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.