Over 100 images from nine leading Magnum photographers will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the current landscape of UK manufacturing in Open for Business, a new exhibition that opens at the Science Museum on 22 August 2014. Featuring never-before-seen photographs from Chris Steele-Perkins and Mark Power, the exhibition captures the diversity and the people behind Britain’s changing industrial heritage, its variety documented by photographs that include shipbuilding by Stuart Franklin, Aardman animators by Martin Parr and theatrical prop makers by David Hurn.
Commissioned in 2013 by Magnum Photos and Multistory, each Open for Business photographer has focused on a different region of the UK to create their own personal record of British manufacturing. Taken during a period of global economic uncertainty, these images provide a timely opportunity to explore the present and future conditions of British industry.
Award-winning American street photographer Bruce Gilden concentrates on industry in Greater London, creating unflinching portraits of staff at the Tate & Lyle and Vauxhall factories to highlight the physical impact of industry on the workforce. The remaining eight photographers visited a range of workplaces across the UK, from smaller businesses like Frank Baines Saddlery and Cameron Balloons to FTSE 100 companies like Airbus and Renishaw. Images of foundries, shipbuilding and assembly lines will be displayed alongside milliners, animators and research laboratories. The complete list of contributors includes UK photographers Stuart Franklin, David Hurn, Peter Marlow, Martin Parr, Mark Power and Chris Steele-Perkins; and international photographers Alessandra Sanguinetti (Argentina) and Jonas Bendiksen (Norway).
The exhibition also includes film footage and interviews with each of the photographers to provide further insight into their approach, as well as a free newspaper that features additional photographs and a pull-out image taken by Bruce Gilden that visitors can take away with them.
Bruce Gilden says: ‘With the fascinating history of British manufacturing in mind, it was a great experience for me to be involved in the Open for Business project and to be able to meet some of the men and women who continue giving in modern times their contribution to Britain's industrial heritage.'
Emma Chetcuti, Director of Multistory, says: ‘Open for Business is an ambitious project that tells the story of British manufacturing through the lens of nine Magnum photographers. From mattresses to sausages, and aircraft carriers to cars, the resulting exhibition of over 100 images, is dynamic and diverse.’
The Science Museum also provides a unique opportunity to view this new archive of modern British manufacturing within the context of some of the most celebrated examples of earlier recordings, including Coalbrookdale by Night by De Loutherbourg and A Manufacturing Town by L.S. Lowry.
Ben Russell, Science Museum Curator of Mechanical Engineering, says: ‘We are delighted to be able to offer visitors the chance to place Open for Business within the wider history of UK manufacturing. Audiences will actually walk past many of the cornerstones of the Industrial Revolution, including Puffing Billy, Stephenson’s Rocket and Thomas Newcomen’s atmospheric engine, before reaching the exhibition.’
Open for Business is a touring exhibition that first opened at the National Media Museum in Bradford and will travel to nine venues across the UK. Each of these venues will then be gifted a portfolio of selected photographs once the tour finishes.
The exhibition is a collaborative project funded by the Arts Council England and in partnership with UK cultural institutions: National Media Museum; Manchester Museum of Science & Industry; National Railway Museum; London Science Museum; University of South Wales, Newport; Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery; MShed Bristol; and Street Level Photoworks. The exhibition is produced in collaboration with Metro Imaging.