June last year I came across an advert for Prestel Publishing. Who have quickly become one of my favorite publishers.
The first book that caught my eye was David Lynch The Factory Photographs. My first thought was ‘David Lynch does photographs?!’ But on reflection, it’s not that odd for a cinematographer, especially such an auteur* to also be a photographer.
* A term used in film theory. The French word for ‘author’. Used in reference to a film maker who’s personal artistic vision is portrayed throughout their body of work.
The book collects images taken between between 1986 – 2000 across Europe and America. Interestingly England only providing a handful of opportunities to shoot. Lynch explains how the decline in industrial factories in England meant that a lot of the vacant sites have been demolished and/or rebuilt. I would imagine this is owing to the limited space we have in England, all workable space is precious with our ever expanding society and need to preserve Green Belt areas. I suppose in larger countries and states in Europe and America, respectively, have space that they can allow to ‘go to seed’ for longer periods. Creating some beautiful derelict and abandoned places. Perhaps it might also have something to land owning and procuring laws.
The book opens with a portrait (taken by Nicky Bonne) and quote from Lynch:
“I just like going into strange worlds. A lot more happens when you open yourself up to the work and let yourself react to it. Every work “talks” to you, and if you listen to it, it will take you to places you never dreamed of.” Gilroy-Hirtz, P.“David Lynch: The Factory Photographs Germany: Prestel, 2014.
I suppose this is fitting owing to Lynch himself, as an artist and public figure, being the main selling point for the book. Opposed to the notoriety of the work, however brilliant, itself. The quote also prepares us as readers/viewers on how to contextualize what we are about to see.
Following this is a short interview between Petra Gilroy-Hirtz and Lynch which further familiarizes us with the world we are about to enter. Lynch remembers some photos were taken just after his film, The Elephant Man. This dates some shots in the collection back to the nineteen eighties. We also learn the subject matter of Lynches great fascination is owing to the great beauty and abstract forms he found in these abandoned places. This certainly comes through in the images. Lynch succeeds in capturing the individual personality of each factory. Personality that is, Lynch laments, lacking in modern factories.
After a longer piece detailing an overview Lynch’s career and further exploring his fascination with industrial scenes. Finally a collection of quotes from Lynch. The title “Reading David Lynch” directs us to take note and bear these in mind when looking over the work.
For me all this introduction material was fascinating. It really helped me to understand the meaning of abstract photography. I was also able to contextualize modern photography in terms of photographic history. Gilroy-Hirtz draws parallels between Lynch’s work and that of the New Objectivity movement in the nineteen twenties. Even those who have studied photography academically, or otherwise, will find something of interest.
Written by curator Gilroy-Hitz is compelling and well presented. Making the reading experience enjoyable.
The one thing I love about (and makes me willing to invest in) photography books is that they are often beautiful objects. The Factory Photographs is just that. The cover is a soft textured linen. The 160 prints are spread across good quality paper in a matte finish. It’s a medium sized book measuring 30.4 x 26.7 x 2.6 cm.
The collection is arranged loosely into untitled sections. My description would be External, Internal, Windows and the final section moving toward abstract landscapes.
A common thread through out the series is Lynch’s use of high contrast black and white. This is commonly used in abstract photography, creating flatter images breaking 3D objects down into 2D shapes. As color film was readily available at the time it’s worth noting that this was a conscious choice by Lynch to create a certain mood in the project. One he has made in some of his films(IMDB: David Lynch) as well.
Through out the book we certainly get a sense of Lynch’s fascination with industrial spaces by variety of shots included. Delving deeper we find the photographs were taken over a period of 14 years. Further showing how much time Lynch has dedicated to the study of his subject.
This publication coincided with an exhibition of the work. I was gutted to have missed this as it was held in London at The Photographer’s Gallery 17th January – 30 March 2014.
I have since visited The Photographer’s Gallery and it is a fantastic exhibition space spread over three floors. There’s also a cracking photography bookshop (shop online here) in the basement. They also, if you have the budget, sell a selection of prints from selected photographers (available online here). Along with a large selection of books and magazines the shop also sells refurbished Polaroids by The Impossible Project and Lomography products.