For 140 years Consett in County Durham was synonymous with the production of iron and steel. Then in 1980, the steelworks was shut and subsequently dismantled by the largest demolition project in Europe. Germain uses his and other photographs (most notably Tommy Harris’s pictures made for the local newspaper, as well as family snapshots) to give an account of Consett. ‘Steel Works’ examines the social impact of a major industrial closure and evokes the broader social changes of the 1980’s – Thatcher’s Britain – when communities that had been shaped by industrial processes which offered jobs and identity were threatened by a new culture of economic expediency.
From ‘Steel Works. Consett, from steel to tortilla chips’, Why Not Publishing, 1990.
“Unlike in the family snaps and in Tommy Harris’s local press photos, Germain’s subjects rarely look you in the eye. Brassy colours conceal emptiness and would seem to urge temporary gratification. Colour-gloss itself becomes Germain’s metaphor for what has been sacrificed in moving from a black-and-white world to a full colour one. And the result is that there is nothing left of the naïvity and hopeful enthusiasm which shouts from every picture Tommy Harris ever took. Germain’s gaudy colours alert us to the ‘esprit de corps’ and deep personal bonds that have vanished and for whose loss the steelworks closure is only a symbol”
David Lee, from the introduction of ‘Steel Works. Consett, from steel to tortilla chips’, Why Not Publishing, 1990.