In 2013, Multistory and Magnum Photos commissioned nine of the world’s leading photographers to document contemporary British manufacturing. During a period of great economic instability, and where questions are being raised about the strength of western economies within the worldwide market, there has never been a more relevant time to explore the condition of Britain’s manufacturing future
As a country built on the success of the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing is intrinsically linked to Britain’s worldwide economic position. The Industrial Revolution also marks a significant period of visual recording, including the paintings of Joseph Wright and L.S Lowry. This documentation was continued and expanded on with the invention of photography and by post-war photographers such as Maurice Broomfield and Walter Nurnberg, creating a rich and diverse historical archive. Magnum’s own collection of British industrial photographs begins with WWII and shows the very resilience of British manufacturing being explored by Open for Business. The new commissions build on this photographic history of recording manufacturing and create a contemporary British archive, to be gifted to some of the UK’s most significant collections.
The photographs here provide the means of exploring a wider change that globalization has had on production and process. Magnum’s UK photographers, Stuart Franklin, David Hurn, Peter Marlow, Martin Parr, Mark Power and Chris Steele-Perkins, alongside three international photographers Alessandra Sanguinetti (Argentina), Bruce Gilden and Jonas Bendiksen (Norway) have visited over one hundred workplaces across the UK; from one-man businesses to FTSE 100 companies. Their photographs take us from traditional, handmade crafts to modern, intelligent automation; from foundries and assembly lines to research laboratories and high tech cleanrooms, showing an economic sector of extraordinary resistance and diversity.