Industrial Photography in the Machine Age

Beauty in banality

Whereas one barrel would hardly draw any attention, this scene of the Lowestoft herring harvest surely does. While the fish are gutted and packed on the quayside, the landscape surrounding them seems to stem from another world, void of nature and desolate in its vastness. Images like this not only illustrate ‘the magnificence of magnitude’ but also what we might call ‘the beauty of banality’. Let’s hold that thought for a moment and look at this rather unusual image...

Masterfully compiled by overlaying several images, Catalan photographer Josep Masana Fargas has created an object of beauty and interest out of a collection of radiators – poetry moves in mysterious ways!

Most likely, a shot of just one radiator would have been plain, slightly silly and a bit boring. Neither would just one machine in a factory hall have had the same impact as the cleverly composed panoramic views that ushered in this exhibition. As it turns out, a large part of these images’ appeal is the mere multitude of objects they depict.

This principle is applicable to all kinds of items and contexts. Thousands of pieces of beech tree used for fish smoking make for a compelling scene as well.

While in the foreground the texture and the tactility of the material are standing out, the impressive stack of wood in the back toys with concepts such as repetitiveness and symmetry.

Subjects seen razor-sharp in close-up can also offer the pleasure of plenty. Sometimes it’s not the quantity of objects but the multitude of minutiae that discharges into visual satisfaction.

By depicting everyday objects and scenes, photographers bestow mystery and intrigue upon the most inconspicuous subjects. Shadowing and light reflection are the secret ingredients of this astonishing image of a clock manufactured by the smiths of the Cordang atelier in The Netherlands.

The beautiful relief laid out by the precious metals workers is equally skillfully portrayed by the anonymous photographer who documented this intricate creation.