Review: David Lynch: The Factory Photographs

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. 

The Text

Written by curator Gilroy-Hitz is compelling and well presented. Making the reading experience enjoyable.

The Book 

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 Photographs 

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. 

David Lynch: The Factory Photographs is available from The Photographer’s Gallery & Amazon.co.uk and is published by Prestel

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. 

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My First Year In Photography

Back in March of this year, I picked up a camera and started to think seriously about photography. 10 months later and I’m starting this blog to document and discuss my progress. So I suppose the best place to start is the beginning. During that “getting-to-know-each-other-dating” stage my boyfriend mentioned he was really into his photography. Now I’d always had an interest but high school art and all it’s demands had knocked my confidence. And lets face it, what do they teach in high school that has any bearing on the real world?! So I said; “Hey, you should show me how to use this old camera my dad gave me!”.  That camera was my Dad’s Praktica Nova. This was one of the shot from the first roll of film I shot in it. (please note the contrast has been edited slightly due to the fact the film was expired).

© Katherine Broadbent
Despite all it’s imperfections I love this image. It’s the first image that I took that made me think; “I can do this.” Plus, y’know, I’m a Crazy Cat Lady to the max. I started to go out and shoot more. Not setting my goals too high. If I got one decent shot on a roll of 36, hey, that was a success. While I love the Nova, it is older than I am and almost as heavy! So my boyfriend, happy with my enthusiasm for something he was so passionate about, handed me his old Nion F55 to hold on to for a while. We enjoyed (and still do enjoy) many days out across the county. Him with his landscape and street and me in the early days getting to know my camera.
© Katherine Broadbent

This shot was taken on a day out at Overstrand. This was back when I didn’t edit my photos. Learning the manual controls and thinking about composition were challenge enough. Without worrying about scanning the film and blundering about in some editing software I began to get a sense of what I wanted to photograph. As my skill developed I started to put a little money away each month. In May I bought my first DSLR a Nikon D300s which I got second hand, along with a Nikkor 35 prime from the lovely folks at Wex Photographic.

© Katherine Broadbent
 

By now I had learnt the basic techniques needed to get the shot I wanted ‘in-camera’. But when I moved onto digital, I began to experiment with editing. I use Nikon Picture Control & GIMP (both free). The image above I straightened then added a vignette with a gausian blur to intensify the dark without blowing out the light. One of my days off I have to myself. So I take myself off on an adventure to shoot! I try to go every week but life occasionally demands my presence elsewhere.Once I got the basic functions of the camera right, I started to think about what I wanted to shoot and where I might find it. I now keep a note book of locations I have been to or have heard about, where I might find something that catches my eye.

© Katherine Broadbent
© Katherine Broadbent

These shots were taken below a flyover on the outskirts of my city. I almost didn’t get there as the path was overgrown with nettles. I almost didn’t stay because of all the graffiti and discarded beer cans creating a rather intimidating atmosphere. But I am proud to have the shots proving I overcame my hesitation and fear.

© Katherine Broadbent

Another big milestone I reached this year was having my photo ‘Warriors’ noticed by some actual experts. The photograph (above) was picked by WEX as runner up in there weekly Twitter competition as well as a runner up in Ted Forbes’ Art of Photography Book Give Away Competition. I’ll sign off this post with a shot I took just last week. 

© Katherine Broadbent

  I’ve recently been experimenting with botanical photography. Prompted by the awesome Ted Forbes (check out his YouTube vlog The Art of Photography) running a botanical themed photography competition. (Via Twitter #AOPBG) To get the shot I wanted I experimented with: Presenting my subject, Framing, Lighting & Editing (mainly dodge/burn). Until they all came together to form an image I was proud of. All in all I’m more proud of how far I have come in such a short space of time. Here’s to an even better year of shooting in 2015!