Chris Steele-Perkins / Plymouth
“I have been photographing England: the people, the culture, the landscape, the ups and the downs, as a central part of my working life. So, to be commissioned to work around a topic in England that I had done little about in the past, manufacturing, in an area (Plymouth) I had spent little time in, was welcome.
I wanted to look at a variety of manufacturing and in the time-frame of 10 days I thought that one day per company, regardless of size, would be a good distribution of effort and each company should be refreshingly different; and this proved to be the case. My approach is fairly simple. I don’t take batteries of lights with me, but I do sometimes use some small flash guns, and generally I don’t interfere too much, though I do ask people to perhaps repeat something they have done, or to move in order to change the dynamic of the picture. While my interest is primarily about people, I photograph the things that interest me on different levels too, including details that I notice – fragments of the visual world that the photographer’s eye teases out of the mass of ‘stuff’ and so elevates it in significance.
The exception where I really do interfere is by making posed, small-group portraits. Factories are collective enterprises, where teams have to work together. I make a few of these group portraits depending on the place and how I feel. They are pictures that are out of context at one level as they are constructed groupings but all still within the wider context of their work-place and, along with the photographs of process and of details, work together to allow some insight into these factories.”
Burts Potato Chips
Tideford Organic Foods
Bandvulc Tyres Ltd
Steele-Perkins has been working internationally since the early 70s and, since joining Magnum in 1979, he has worked extensively in the developing world with a number of highly acclaimed reportages. His recent book ENGLAND, MY ENGLAND offers his very personal retrospective of work shot in England over the last 40 years.