Large scale photographic work on our riverside window
Ships that Pass is a newly created photographic installation for The Social: Encountering Photography, a month of photography in Sunderland and North East England, commissioned by the North East Photography Network and National Glass Centre.
Looking out towards the River Wear from National Glass Centre it is difficult to imagine the scale of shipbuilding activity undertaken on this now calm and seemingly implacable river. From its position as the largest shipbuilding town in the world, Sunderland has struggled to find a sense of identity and purpose to replace its historic achievements in mining and shipbuilding.
The legacy of a move from an economy based on manufacturing and extraction to one based on the financial and service sector has proved itself inadequate in the task of providing an acceptable level of employment that is capable of supporting families, and has cemented a damaging north/south divide that continues to widen. The current Government is arguably scarcely represented in the North of England and is totally excluded from north of the nearby Scottish border, they have continued to pursue economic policies mostly focused on the already overstressed South of England and have neglected developments in other parts of Britain.
The recent discussions about independence in Scotland are a serious reflection of how the British people and, increasingly those who live away from the pull of London, truly feel about how inclusive and representative our Government really is. We all know that we are ‘in it’ but not that we are ‘in it together’.
Ships that Pass references the River Wear and the sense of purpose it achieved in over 600 years of making ships of every kind for the world. It also celebrates the model making of Fred Gooch (a one time employee of Sunderland Shipbuilders) who is responsible for constructing the model ships depicted here. A reminder of the scale and intensity of shipbuilding activity once pre-eminent in Sunderland before its hasty demise, it celebrates its achievements whilst reflecting on the surrounding environmental and cultural legacy. It is also a work that considers where culture lies in the popular imagination and for whom.
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