The popularity of Joseph Wright of Derby's paintings or those by Philip James de Loutherbourg of the industrial revolution in Britain stems, in part, from a paradox. On the one hand there is the fascination, excitement and money-making potential of processes, machines and large new, landscape-moulding developments that have never been seen before on such a scale before - forges, furnaces, bridges and tall chimneys, big factories, mines, new workers' housing etc. But there is also a feeling that the new industries, whilst clearly being the future and progress, also mark a change from a gentler, more natural, essentially agrarian Britain to one where the forces of industry and finance are being let rip and their rapid march is stamping all over the traditional, the loved and the familiar. The appeal of paintings such as Loutherbourg's showing the Bedlam Furnaces at Madeley Wood, Coalbrookedale in Shropshire, is in part because of this kind of ambivalence towards large-scale industry and its consequences.
As a photographer I recognise something of that when I photograph wind turbines or electricity pylons that have been dumped, like metal monsters, into rural or offshore locations, places that either haven't changed much, or have changed slowly, and which represent the nearest we get to continuity in a fast changing world. As a subject for the camera both turbines and pylons can offer something striking that even the most ardent protector of rural Britain must recognise. It's a feeling that I felt again when I stood just outside the gateway of Melton Ross chalk quarries in north Lincolnshire and photographed the buildings and machinery associated with the extraction and processing of lime. Ugly? Undoubtedly. Grim? Certainly. But also imposing and visually interesting. I liked the tyre tracks the lorries had left on the wet ground, the bright colours of the safety signs and their reflections against the earth colours of the buildings and conveyor belts, and the dark, threatening clouds flecked by the white smoke from the works' chimneys, that promised more rain.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Camera: Canon 5D Mk2
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/40 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On