David Lynch explores decaying factories in a new photography exhibition in London

In a new show at The Photographers' Gallery
In a new show at The Photographers' Gallery in London, film director David Lynch turns his lens on factories around the world. Pictured is 'Untitled (Łódź)', 2000 © Collection of the artist
(Image credit: TBC)

Given a choice between visiting Disneyland and an abandoned factory, film director and former Wallpaper* guest editor David Lynch picks the latter. Take one look at his series The Factory Photographs, and it's not hard to grasp why. Be they sites of dereliction or hothouses of industry, the various buildings captured make perfect movie material.

'They are like cathedrals,' says Lynch, of the factories. He talks of decay as a 'fantastic thing', before referring to rusting machinery and nature's slow requisition of abandoned spaces as something of 'great beauty' - though his images are anything but full of greenery.

Detached pipes and fractured brickwork litter the focus of Lynch's lens. 'There are shapes and textures in the factory that are so painterly,' says the director, 'It's amazing.' Each room brings more components and abstractions and with them, shadows that add the perfect darkness to black and white prints.

Lynch's obsession initially began soon after he filmed The Elephant Man in 1980. 'I always heard that the north of England had the greatest factories,' explains Lynch. 'That it was fire and smoke, and just pure beauty.' And so, along with cinematographer Freddie Francis, he planned a trip to visit Britain's industrial heritage - only to discover for the most part it had been torn down.

Now Lynch's collection of photographs - currently on display at The Photographers' Gallery in London (opens in new tab) - take the viewer to Berlin, Poland, New York, New Jersey and England, among other industrial locations. This, however, is far from being simply a documentary project.

Lynch pays little notice to context. It's the small details to be found in among the ruins that he revels in. And - as if to say he has little time for nostalgia - a series of working factories, complete with white billowing clouds escaping smokestacks, are also photographed.

Station, a track Lynch has chosen to soundtrack the exhibition, (from his album 'The Air is on Fire'), ties these two strands together. Each mechanical sample slowly clunks across an electronic brawl, bringing to life the past while haunting the present.

Lynch's collection of moody, black and white photographs - on show in Europe for the first time - captures industrial sites across Berlin, Poland, New York, New Jersey and England, among other industrial locations.

Lynch's collection of moody, black and white photographs - on show in Europe for the first time - captures industrial sites across Berlin, Poland, New York, New Jersey and England, among other industrial locations. Courtesy of The Photographers’ Gallery London © Kate Elliott

(Image credit: David Lynch. The Photographers’ Gallery London © Kate Elliott)

Untitled (Łódź)' 2000

'Untitled (Łódź)', 2000 © Collection of the artist

(Image credit: © Collection of the artist)

Untitled (England)', late 1980s/early 1990s

'Untitled (England)', late 1980s/early 1990s © Collection of the artist

(Image credit: © Collection of the artist)

Lynch describes the factories as 'like Cathedrals', whether they are derelict or hothouses of industry.

Lynch describes the factories as 'like Cathedrals', whether they are derelict or hothouses of industry. Courtesy of The Photographers’ Gallery London © Kate Elliott

(Image credit: David Lynch. The Photographers’ Gallery London © Kate Elliott)

Untitled (England)', late 1980s/early 1990s

'Untitled (England)', late 1980s/early 1990s © Collection of the artist

(Image credit: © Collection of the artist)

'Untitled (Łódź)', 2000

'Untitled (Łódź)', 2000 © Collection of the artist

(Image credit: © Collection of the artist)

Installation view of 'The Factory Photographs' exhibition.

Installation view of 'The Factory Photographs' exhibition. Courtesy of The Photographers’ Gallery London © Kate Elliott

(Image credit: The Photographers’ Gallery London © Kate Elliott)

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