Having decided on the theme of my photo story I then spent some time researching photographers known for their images of industrial architecture and who I felt could either be an inspiration or an influence when finalising my shooting and processing plans.
Bernd and Hiller Becher
As a starting point for my research I began by looking at the work of the Bechers, a German couple who are well known for their series of images of industrial buildings and structures. They had an encyclopaedic approach to their work and systematically produced typologies by taking a series of images of a single subject and displaying them in grids – see examples here and here.
They both taught at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and were influential to a group of photographers, including Andreas Gursky and Thomas Struth, loosely known as the ‘Düsseldorf School’ . Their work is documentary and deadpan in nature, comprising full-frontal images with flat lighting and often without context, and to be honest is not really my cup of tea being too objective and clinical for my liking. Although I did not find their work hugely inspirational for my assignment, my further research revealed their influence appearing in a number of other photographers’ work that I looked at, hence their inclusion in this post.
I first came across Renger-Patzsch when reading Bull (2009) and he has been a huge influence on my assignment. A German photographer who covered a number of genres, it is his industrial images that really interest and influence me. Leaning towards documentary-style images, he successfully combined the factual recording of a structure with a great use of framing and composition and this is something I have tried to do in some of my assignment images. Here in ‘Industrial harbor view, 1920s‘ the way that Renger-Patszch used the scaffolding to frame the image immediately caught my attention. Guided by the frame, the eye is drawn through the image to the city beyond, aided by the light emerging from the cloud and highlighting the city buildings. Through his careful composition Render-Patzsch has managed to create a relationship between the harbour and the city, showing a good use of juxtaposition and this image was a strong influence on my cover shot.
‘Ruhrlandschaften, Hafenabstraktion, 1928 (ca)‘ is another image with a clever use of juxtaposition. The viewer again looks through a frame, this time created by an ugly-looking harbour structure in the foreground, to the more attractive city beyond, the eye being drawn through the image to the spire at the back. Interestingly I had looked at using a similar compositional structure when shooting early test shots at Ipswich Marina to find out if my assignment idea was viable so it was gratifying to find through my research that I was on the right track. I subsequently used Renger-Patszch as an influence when planning a number of my assignment images and thinking about what I hoped to achieve through them.
Another image of Renger-Patzsch that influenced my assignment was ‘Düngesalzfabrik 1938‘. Translating as ‘Fertiliser Salt Factory’ this image is more straightforward in composition than the previous two and reflects Renger-Patzsch’s desire to objectively record exactly what he saw rather than trying to beautify objects; he was a believer in documentation rather than art . I found this image interesting with regard to my assignment as I have been looking at the old factory buildings around the Marina.
‘Hamburg, Port, c. 1929′ is another image which looks at the relationship between the city and the harbour. What drew me to this photograph was the fact that it was used as a cover image for Renger-Patzsch’s book ‘Hamburg: Photographische Aufnahmen‘ (1930, Gebrüder Enoch Verlag) and it provided inspiration for the cover page of my assignment piece. Again I am influenced by Renger-Patszch’s straight-forward and precise style, with its sharp focus and purposeful framing.
Eric de Maré
De Maré’s work also proved influential for my assignment. Another photographer whose images leaned towards the documentary, he trained as an architect before becoming a photographer . I drew inspiration from the way that de Maré concentrated on the functionality of the buildings that he photographed, as demonstrated in his image of Jarrolds Printing Works, Norwich. Like Renger-Patzsch he had the ability to frame his images well as shown in this photograph ‘Transporter Bridge, Middlesborough, Cleveland‘.
Lynch’s exhibition ‘The Factory Photographs’ which I visited in March (see review here) stirred a lurking interest that I’ve had for a while in industrial architecture. Lynch’s work was influential in my preliminary assignment planning as it showed that it was possible to bring emotion (a fundamental point in my view to a successful photo story) to architectural images. It also proved to me that a series of images of derelict buildings, provided that they are curated well, can be absorbing and form a connection with the viewer. Although I liked the sombre moodiness of Lynch’s work this was not something that I was looking to recreate in my story, wanting more of a sad, desolate feel to the unused and unloved buildings featured my images. However the exhibition laid the seeds of an idea which remained in my mind as I developed the assignment.
Basilico’s work was directed at city and industrial landscapes, again shot in a documentary style and mostly in black and white. Another photographer who trained as an architect, his images are very disciplined with a good use of form and composition. Stripped back, straight-forward and unsentimental photographs, with no people in them to cause a distraction, I found my attention to be completely focused on the buildings themselves and how they relate to each other within the image.
Here in his image ‘Dunkirk, 1989’ (image at top of page) his use of light adds interest to an otherwise very regulated, geometric composition (with wonderfully straight verticals). Again light plays a part in the success of this image of Milan apartments (second image from top) from his ‘Interrupted City’ series and shot in 1999.
 Source: Hamilton, E. (2011) (online). Instant Expert: Bernd and Hilla Becher . American Photo. Available from http://www.americanphotomag.com/article/2011/11/instant-expert-bernd-and-hilla-becher [accessed 07 May 2014]
 Source: Janzon, T. (online) . Overview, ‘Photographer of Objectivity’. The MIT Press. Available from http://www.mitpress.mit.edu/books/albert-renger-patzsch [accessed 15 May 2014]
 Source: Hodgson, F. (2010) (online). Eric de Mare at RIBA, London. Financial Times. Available from http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/ed95ddfe-d4d5-11df-b230-00144feabdc0.html#axzz32XrDJgkp [accessed 06 May 2014]