Open for Business is a body of work that depicts contemporary British manufacturing in a time when most would believe it is declining. It show cases a broad range of industries from sausage making, yacht building and weaving to the construction of the HMS Queen Elizabeth the largest ship ever built for the Royal Navy. The work was commissioned by Multistory a Midlands based arts organisation that is dedicated to telling the stories of ordinary peoples lives.
The exhibition covers a diverse range of styles from nine Magnum photographers each one focuses on a different area of the UK. The images are displayed in various ways from three one meter tall black and white images from Stuart Franklin to a multi media display from Jonas Bendiksen.
The exhibition is currently touring the UK and will be at the London Science Museum until the 2nd of November 2014. Then from the 21st of November it will be in Newport South Wales, after that it goes to Plymouth, Bristol and Glasgow. Full details of the tour can be found here.
Stuart Franklin’s work documents the construction of the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier and large scale renewable energy projects in Scotland. The sense of scale in his images are immense, one of the photographs that sticks in my mind is the underside of an aircraft carrier in a dry dock, the scale will dawn on you when you notice a tiny solitary figure painting the hull of the ship. His black and white images are printed at least a meter tall and absolutely stunning. If you’re a camera geek you will be interested to know that Stuart’s work was shot with a Leica M Monochrom (Leica’s new black and white digital camera).
David Hurn’s work focuses on South Wales, one particular image of his that sticks in my mind was from Cardiff Theatrical Services which depicts someone painting a theatre back drop, like Stuart Franklin’s it’s conveys a huge scale. It’s worth mentioning that some of the images I’m describing are not displayed in but are included in a free 80 page newspaper, if you go don’t forget to pick one up!
It’s an exhibition of firsts as it includes the first colour photographs exhibited by Bruce Gilden in the UK. Bruce’s contribution are portraits of some of the workers from Vauxhall and Tate & Lyle factories in London. Mark Powers contribution to the project is also the first time that he has shot a project digitally. During the press tour Mark gave some interesting insight to his experiences with using digital that I thought rang true: “after taking a photo you immediately look at it on the back of the camera and what you see on the screen never stands up to the reality off what is right in front of you”. He says that it can be instantly disappointing and that, with film photography you have the separation of time, once you are viewing the photographs you are in a different place and they can trigger the feeling of nostalgia of an experience passed.
The exhibition also includes work from an old favorite of mine: Martin Parr, he covers a contrasting mix of height tech manufacturing at Airbus and BAE systems to the quirky animation at Aardman. Peter Marlow’s work depicts the ‘dirty industries’: leather tanneries & metal foundries of The Black Country. His work focuses on the work environment rather than the workers which creates dream like still lifes.
If documentary photography is your thing or you are a daily male reader that believes that nothing is made in Britain anymore I highly recommend you take a look at this free exhibition. Open for Business at the London Science Museum is on display until the 2nd of November 2014 after that it will visit four more UK cities, find out when and where here.