The Photographers’ Gallery presents the European debut of David Lynch’s The Factory Photographs.

In this series Lynch extends his unique cinematic style to dark and brooding images of derelict factories. The photographs are all shot in black and white in locations including Germany, Poland, New York and England. They capture the labyrinthine passages, detritus and decay of what are now, haunting cathedrals of a bygone industrial era, slowly overtaken by nature’s innate power. The exhibition will also feature sound works created by the artist.

The theme of industrialisation is of great interest to Lynch and in films such as Eraserhead (1977), The Elephant Man (1980) and Dune (1984) machinery and the sounds of industry dominate the background. He began taking photographs of factories when scouting for shooting locations and many of his images seem to possess an inherent potential for being the setting of a story. Functionless, disintegrating, rundown, the ‘factory’ appears in Lynch’s ‘personal narrative’ as an enclave, a refuge from the onrush of progress and modern technology.

These photographs exude David Lynch’s sense of aesthetics and reveal his unmistakable signature: surreal imagery enticing viewers into a world of memory and thought. The otherworldly spaces, cypher-like symbols and strange metamorphoses are reminiscent of the enigmatic and ominous qualities of his films. The factories are always set against the backdrop of winter; adding to their sense of melancholy and desolation is the absence of people whose presence is nonetheless evident throughout. The naked branches of trees, cracks in the windows and peeling wall paint evoke the painterly qualities of charcoal drawings.

The Factory Photographs will present over eighty images taken between 1980 and 2000, all sized at 27.9 x 35.6 cm and displayed in a classic matte and dark wooden frame. Printed on gelatin-silver paper, the texture of the prints resembles the soot, vapours and fine dust covering the surfaces depicted. Arranged in a thematic hang, the exhibition will take viewers on a visual tour of the factories. Starting with architectural photographs of the buildings, it will continue with interior shots, focusing on details such as the old machinery, metalwork, pipes and wires. The exhibition will come full circle ending with exterior photographs of the factories and their surroundings.

David Lynch said: I just like going into strange worlds. A lot more happens when you open yourself up to the work and let yourself act and react to it. Every work ‘talks’ to you, and if you listen to it, it will take you places you never dreamed of.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Petra Giloy-Hirtz, a curator and author based in Munich.