Sunday, September 10, 2006

Emerging Themes

Although aiming to complete six folded documents, it is tempting to do eight, ten or more. Material has been created suggesting many themes, yet there has to be a limit and a conclusion to the M.A.

With several documents partly completed it seemed appropriate that this situation itself was an important theme of the project. The unfinished documents are brought together in one. The best material and a concise summary of the ideas concentrates the quality of the material that reflects the development of the project at the time.

The inclusion of ‘projected’ text had been intended for sometime and was hoped to form a finale to the project but this had become just one of several important themes that could be explored. To help relate the ideas for future themes back to the origins of the project and create a conclusive summary ‘The Spirit of Dalton Mills’ was the best solution.

The original idea would be a good contrast between the latest development, and a concept that could relate to time, the continuing underlyng theme of the project. With an image of the clock face the themes of ‘time’ and ‘spirit’ conclude the project well, illustrating the relationship between the two themes.


The most fundamental element of the mills is power as the purpose and reason for the mills existence is industry. Industry requires power and in the case of the Yorkshire textiles industry in the nineteenth century, power was usually provided via steam. Dalton Mills impressive and ornate architecture was rivalled by its original steam engines, said to be the largest in the world at that time and housed in a lavishly decorated engine house.

This theme reflects the inner workings of the mills, the nuts and bolts that made the place function. The surviving parts of the power systems and space to accommodate them provide a pragmatic subject matter now in a romantic setting and to convey this was the challenge.

With the experience from The Mechanics Shed, the photography was progressing and two photographs in particular seemed to capture the contrast of the pragmatic and the romantic. These two photographs, one detail another space complement each other when adjacent, so this enables a new configuration within the folded format.

The photographic material supports the more extensive text available for this subject than for previous themes and the result works as a balanced document both conceptually and visually.

The Mechanics Shed

The atmosphere of The Mechanics Shed epitomises the intrigue of a disused industrial building. It has taken several visits to really capture it and through the process of exploring the detail and space in the atmospheric light, I have exploited photographic techniques that until now I had previously been a novice.

This is where the photography on this project surpassed any expectations I had at the beginning of what the project might achieve. The room, its contents and the light all combined to provide a subject that encapsulated the spirit of Dalton Mills and enabled realisation of some of the fundamental aims of the project.

It was adopting this approach that I think changed the type of images I was achieving from simply good compositional shots to images that convey character and atmosphere, everything that I had set out to achieve at the beginning of the project. The combination of inspiration, excellent atmospheric conditions and
learning had contributed to successfully achieving the basic aims of this project, not through drawing or painting which I had first thought would be the correct approach but through a combination of photography and graphic design.


Chatting to an artist in the Light in Leeds one afternoon, who was exhibiting photographic prints of buildings, he told me his philosophy was to reveal the views to people that they normally cannot see. The prints were panoramas of elevations with dramatic skies and lighting. Position, narrow streets and obstructions prevented this complete view to be obtained normally.

It seemed a perfect technique to try and portray the exterior of Dalton Mills. The philosophy was to not overlook the obvious and capture these impressive buildings in their full exterior glory.
I photographed the facades head-on, moving along a several feet at a time to capture a series of photographs that could be stitched together in photoshop to give a photographic elevation of each building. This was unsuccessful, With so many windows in close rows, it was impossible to get a consistently elevational view without photographing each column of windows individually. You will always get a perspective view of the adjacent ones and too much manipulation destroys the integrity of the image.

It was whilst photographing New Mill’s south façade that I took a quick series of images with a small Nikon compact digital camera using ‘scene’ mode shows a transparent edge to your photograph to align it with the next one to form the scene. I quickly stitched together the Nikon scene and the image conveyed everything I had hoped for, a more realistic portrayal much closer to a natural view.

The result is much more consistent with the style of the project and answers the brief of ‘capturing the building in its current state’ with a simple and effective approach.