Industrial Photography in the Machine Age


In the midst of the machine age, there was still a place for traditional craftsmanship in the manufacturing process. In this chapter, we’ll see how photographers captured industry’s human side.

These photographs of British factories convey the skills of the workers and the sheer quantity of produce, leaving us with a lasting impression. In the image below, an enormous amount of gloves in need of button-holing and buttoning are processed by female workers in Witney, England.

This photograph of women workers in a hosiery factory marries visual interest with historical importance. It documents the activities of the Work For Women Fund: a committee established by the Queen during the First World War. It was given the task of dealing with female unemployment after the war. By raising funds and offering several training schemes, Work for Women allowed for women to remain in employment all through wartime.

To these basket weavers in Kent, England, technology might have seemed an unnecessary burden. Each and every wicker that went into these baskets was bent and woven by their own fingers. In capturing the entire working space, from floor to ceiling, the photographer emphasised the diligence and productivity of these men.

A mountain of shoes is the star of this photograph too. Showing here is the impressive stock of the Naalei Artzenu shoe factory in Jerusalem - once the biggest of Israel.

The female worker seems to be dwarfed by the vast array of heels, soles and leather uppers all around her. Owing to the flat surface of the soles, the reflection of light adds rhtyhm and depth to the image, highlighting the magnitude of the factory's output.

In 1936, a record-breakingly fast sale was brought to a successful close by Mr. Christian Troelstrup. He was a Copenhagen clothier who wanted to get rid of a large stock of overcoats. In a striking attempt to promote the sale, he turned the walls of his shop into an expanse of overcoats.

The customers soon came – in their hundreds. The police were summoned to manage the crowds and was harassed to the point of cancelling the sale. Luckily, by that time, a buyer had been found for every coat.