An interview with Antony Gormley in the Guardian takes flight from the usual discussion of human bodies as the sculptor praises the striking nature of our industrial heritage:
'I want people to be excited about cooling towers and megasheds; they're as much part of our history as the rural barn.'
He praises the telecoms masts of Daventry; the brutal beauty of motorways.
It reminds me of an open exhibition at Horace Blue, in Norwich, where I zeroed in straightaway on Duncan Reekie's beautifully saturated photographs of allotment sheds. There's something honest and straightforward in the subject - Reekie clearly loves the mixture of gridlike rectilinearity and brutal functionality with the slightly random or makeshift nature of the sheds, made of old windows or doors, repaired with plastic sacks stretched over a hole, leaning slightly where the frame has given way. But equally, there's a real love of these sheds, a great affection that comes through in the care he has taken to get them exactly framed in the photo, to saturate the colours and bring out the inherent beauty of the subject.
It's intriguing how we tend to accept some aspects of our industrial heritage and reject others. Canals are good; cooling towers bad. Old tower breweries are good; modern warehouses are bad. But as Gormley points out, there's something honest and brutal in all industrial work that ought to speak to us - something that isn't pretty, that isn't concerned with being 'nice' or not offending people, something that is robust.
I'm aware of it myself when I'm taking photos. I recently wrote an article on Muscat, Oman, for an in-flight magazine, and realised that I had no photos of the commercial centres, the malls which are a defining part of modern Muscat - no photos of the Bollywood Chaat, no photos of Sabco or CCC with their lights, their escalators, their dramatic architectural attempts to gain attention. And no photos of the shops in Ruwi with their bright signage. No photos of the stalls in the souk either - just photos of the architecture. And I realised I'd missed something of the nature of Muscat.