Surviving on Darlington's Shop Floors
Richard Grassick (Photographer)
Original exhibition text, 1981:
The photographs in this exhibition were taken during a series of visits to factories in and around Darlington in 1980 and early 1981. When I originally set out on the project, I wanted to document the experiences of workers in the town’s larger manufacturing industries.
Yet once the photographs were printed and mounted, it became clear that these images did not necessarily convey the realities of factory life. There was a real danger that once they were put into an exhibition, the stories they told would be lost, and people would only see them as ‘nice pictures’. For this reason, I have attempted to use both words and images to question how photographs depict industry and its workers.
Documentary photography claims to show what life is really like. But can it really do so? Photographs are always strongly influenced by the lifestyle, ideas and attitudes of the photographers who take them, by the situations in which they are taken, and by the contexts in which they are ultimately used.
In workplaces, visiting photographers are usually directed and guided by management, often with significant controls over the content of the work. In my experience, the reason most frequently given for this was the prevention industrial sabotage. But these pressures inevitably affect the images that can be captured. This exhibition tries to illustrate how these factors influence industrial documentary photographs, and the way people read them. Richard Grassick
Note: The original exhibition was presented on panels with extensive texts based on interviews. The captions presented her are drawn from those texts.