Ashes to ashes

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This image is as good as any I have taken at capturing the feeling I get standing on the old ironworks sites of West Cumbria. A huge industry that employed thousands of people is essentially gone, and the remnants are being reabsorbed by the countryside from which they were carved.

I guess I could be accused of nostalgia, but I don’t believe it’s that. I didn’t live here when the industry was alive, and many of the sites were closed decades before I was born…I have no familial link to this particular past. For me at least it’s about the idea that this huge enterprise, with all it’s ambitions and early grandiose claims eventually gives in to nature – the iron runs out, the coal runs out, the money runs out or moves elsewhere – ultimately entropy wins every time.

The challenge is to capture that without accidentally making it a political point, which is acknowledged but not intended, and to capture it visually.

This image is a tuyere in the slag heaps at Moss Bay. Tuyere’s were used to direct the air into the base of the Bessemer converters that converted pig iron into steel. They were subjected to huge thermal stresses and were regularly replaced. Lime dissolved from the slag is slowly depositing on this one as the film of water that runs over it evaporates. It’ll probably be eroded from the cliff before it is fully absorbed, but for now it stands as a metaphor for the fate of the industry.

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