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Shadows of the North Book Now On Sale!

DSCF2368It’s been a long time in the making, but I am proud to announce that I have finally got round to publishing a book to accompany the Shadows of the North exhibition! OK, so I’ve mistimed this quite spectacularly as the exhibition at Queen Street Mill is about to end*, but if you haven’t seen it there or at Helmshore then this is an expanded version of the exhibition, and arguably more compact.

Like the exhibition, the book is a wander through the battered and broken remains of the textile mills of Lancashire and West Yorkshire, as well as the surrounding landscape. David Plowden, one of my photographic inspirations, referred to his habit of being ‘one step ahead of the wrecking ball’, and to a large extent, this is something I also have the knack of, albeit with varying degrees of success.

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The book is 70 pages in length and is exclusively black and white which may come as no surprise if you are familiar with my work. I have a limited numbers of books available in this initial batch of printed books, and I will order more if / when these sell out. Given the somewhat expensive prices charged by Blurb, I tend only to order any books from them when there is either a 40 or 50% off offer on, so any future batch will be sometime next year at the earliest.

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Alternatively, if you are a millennial and shun printed matter (or live outside the UK), I have the book available as a downloadable PDF for £4.99. Be warned, it is a very large document! For a preview, please have a look at the 20 page preview PDF also on the store

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DSCF2363The prices on the website are for UK shipping, please contact me if you are outside the UK.

*Truth be told, I did have plans for a Mechanical Landscapes book earlier in the year, and even have a print ready PDF, but everything that could possibly go wrong did do, so I took it as a sign that the universe was telling me that I want ready yet!

 

Buy it here: http://mechanicallandscapes.selz.com

 

#457 – Scunthorpe steelworks revisited

DSC_3431While the photographs I present on my websites etc are often heavily processed, they are all ‘straight’ pictures. Recently though, I have been experimenting with textures to see if the addition of these to an image can bring something else to it.DSC_3529

For this experiment, I selected my images of the steelworks at Scunthorpe, a set I took on a tour of the works in 2009. I wondered if the addition of textures would enhance the surreal feeling that surrounds the site – certainly straight out of camera pictures didn’t do justice although the monochrome versions in high contrast were an improvement. I also wanted to give the feeling of a journey of sorts, as they were taken from a train that was moving round the works. I was loosely inspired by the opening sequences of modern TV drama series such as Homeland and Deutschland 83, although I had a fixed number of images and couldn’t go back and shoot more to fill in any gaps in the narrative that I wanted to establish.DSC_3473

Starting with a monochrome version of the original image, I downloaded a texture from the internet, and then created a layer in Photoshop. I then adjusted the opacity and layer type.DSC_3486

I’ve put them all together into a short slideshow on YouTube, but the main output has been a small handmade book of prints – I still prefer the physicality of printed matter!

 

#456 – Mutual Mills

In 1965, Mutual Mills had more than 1,000 people on the payroll and, as well as its textiles operation, had its own Adelaide Engineering division on site (who are still active on site as a sub-contract machining operation).

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Heywood’s textile mills were closing down at a rapid rate, blaming cheap foreign imports for their demise.

But Mutual Mills struggled on, though steadily reducing its workforce.

The death knell was sounded in 1986 when one of the four mills in the complex was sold off, followed by further job losses and the end of the town’s last surviving cotton spinning firm.

The mills appear to be in multiple occupation, but while there is interest in converting them into apartments, nothing appears to have got off the ground yet. The mills are listed and are one of the few complete remaining large complexes of mills left with most having been partially or completely demolished over the past half century.

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/local-news/mill-site-flat-plans-1043221

Two of the mills are currently for sale for £1.6million

 

#455 – Vernon Carus Revisited

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I visited Vernon Carus’ old Penwortham Mills site back in 2007, not long after the site had closed and work transferred to a new factory round the corner from my house in Chorley. At the time, there was a full time security guard on site who kindly let me wander round for a couple of hours. The main mill was mostly empty and I couldn’t find access to the weaving sheds that contained the remaining machinery. Thereafter, the site went into decline after security was withdrawn, and eventually, the sheds were demolished. The site was bought for redevelopment, but no progress has been made due to the appalling lack of access and the mill has just sat there slowly decaying. It’s been bricked up to make access harder, but to be honest I’ve already been round and don’t fancy risking my neck trying to get in somewhere that’s just a bombed out hulk.

I’d bought a new compact camera so as the place is only 20 minutes away, I thought I’d swing by to have a look and test the camera.

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It was very hard to get any external photographs of the mill in 2007 as there was a lot of single storey buildings in the way. These have since been cleared which makes photography easier. You can see where the north light windows in the shed roofs would have been.

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Looking across the empty wasteland that was once boiler houses, offices and weaving sheds.

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Zooming in a little more. This is where compact cameras come into their own, having a small lens diameter that can fit through gaps in fences and being able to zoom in a lot.

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I used to think this was the base of a chimney, but in hindsight, I think it’s actually a staircase, given how close the windows are to it. I think it may have been this one, but it’s been 9 years since I took that and can’t remember it’s exact location in the mill.

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Vernon Carus Cricket and sports club is more or less opposite the mill and is still very much active. I think they also have a fishing section that uses the old mill lodge behind the factory.

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#454 – Shadows of the North website

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Although I already have two (paid for) websites and two (free) blogs, I’ve decided to build another one, which is a website using a free WordPress blog as its platform. It was mainly to see how quickly it would take to put a website together for a group I’m a member of (answer – surprisingly quickly although I’ve been using WordPress for a good few years now so I know my way round), but it looks quite good, so I’ve kept it going as a showcase for my northern mill images.

If I was starting out with theviewfromthenorth.org today, this is probably the option I’d take, but back in 2007 I knew nothing about websites and Photium allowed me to get a respectable looking website online quickly, and it’s served me well ever since. I’d never even heard of WordPress at the time!

So this is Shadows of the North, I bought shadowsofthenorth.com a couple of years ago and I may yet pay the £8 a year to formalise it as the url for the website, but at the moment it’s just as is. The template is a bit limiting, but it’s a free one, so that’s what you get. It looks ok though.

https://shadowsofthenorth.wordpress.com/

 

#453 – Colne Mills

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North Valley Road through Colne used to be lined with several sister mills to the Smith & Nephew Brierfield Mills, but all have been demolished and replaced with shiny new supermarkets and car dealerships which gives a veneer of modernity to impress people passing through. But away from this facade is another typical East Lancashire mill town – terraced houses and a few crumbling mills (most have been demolished).

A sprawling complex of various mills butts up to the river north of the town centre. There wasn’t much that interested me on an individual basis, but I liked this scene looking down the river.

Taken just a few feet away, I composed this photograph of the visual clutter of the chimney, saw tooth north light roof and the end of Greenfield Mill.DSCF2955-Edit

#452 – Rossendale Mills – The Lancashire Sock Company

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Not too long ago, there were many little mills, bleachers and dyers in the valleys of northern England. The past 20 years has seen them disappear or redeveloped into apartments, as property prices increase and gentrified semi-rural living has become more popular. The valleys of Rossendale though are strangely untouched in this regard, with many mills still standing, although few are still in the textile trade and most are in multiple occupancy.

I took these of the Lancashire Sock Company Mill to capture a vanishing part of the industrial landscape, a traditional stone built mill, replete with lodge (millpond), chimney and moorland backdrop on a typically rainy winters day in Lancashire.

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#451 – Rossendale Mills – The Lancashire Sock Company

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I was comforted to discover that a company called The Lancashire Sock Manufacturing Company exist in a mill in Bacup. I’m not saying this in a patronising, sneering kind of way – I’m always pleased to discover traditional, long established manufacturing companies in old mills. There’s also the no-nonsense ‘does what it says on the tin’ Northern name, a fantastic survivor in an age of meaningless company branding.

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The company manufactures latex foam and crumb rubber coated felts and textiles which are used in applications such as footwear insoles and carpet underlay. They also manufacture and supply synthetic chamois and advanced heat reflective ironing board cover fabrics.

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The company’s factory is Britannia mill, which it has occupied since 1926, although there has been a mill on the site since the 1790’s. A full history can be found on the company website here.

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