Art & Photography

David Lynch: The Factory Photographs

A troika of exhibitions opened this month at The Photographers’ Gallery, including the stark and gloomy industrial photographs by the Mulholland Drive director

For fans of Eraserhead, Twin Peaks or Dune, the black and white image of David Lynch’s series, The Factory Photographs, evokes an all too familiar cinematic sensibility. The images, shot of abandoned warehouses and factories in locations across England, Łódź, New York and Berlin over a 20 year period, from the 80s to early 2000s, are reminiscent of the haunting sets of those films.

Indeed, the photographs are a diary of cinematic location-scouting, accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Lynch that heightens the drama of their subjects, documenting narratives that have visually written themselves. The grainy quality of the prints adds texture to the layers of materials on display, contrasting the natural forms of moss and turf with steel, glass and cloud, light and dark. Desolation and the idea of relic drive the series of images: sponge-like brickwork hovers between the two states, echoing the between-ness of the abandoned factories – present but without function. Chimneys, decapitated and redundant jut into wintery skies like defunctive phallic symbols, outdated and obsolete. Elsewhere, ‘faces’ seem to emerge from the brickwork of walls, like robotic spectres reminiscent of Metropolis. The undercurrent of uniformity within the series, both in their execution and their subject matter, calcifies the “bristling static” of their aesthetic, which triumphs both in intensity and interest. I never had David Lynch figured for an urban explorer, but the devotion with which he captures his derelict sets almost matches the most iconic imagery from his film sequences.

The Factory Photographs runs concurrently with shows of William S. Burroughs’ and Andy Warhol’s photography. Beyond their shared interest in ‘Americanness’, the ‘red thread’ linking the three – the fact they are creatives known for other practices – is an interesting one, especially working across a generational slant. As three practitioners at the top of their given professions, the exhibitions succeed in offering a small insight – arguably an almost vulnerable, or at least personal one – into the world surrounding their art. In this sense, Factory Photographs really adds to the dialogue around Lynch’s work, and demonstrating how his film, photography (and music) all start from the same point, making a larger, instantaneously recognisable, Lynchian whole.

David Lynch: The Factory Photographs runs until 20 March 2013 at The Photographers’ Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies Street, London, W1F 7LW