Whilst visiting the V&A British Photography Since 1945 exhibition (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/British-photography-since-1945) I was captivated by a photographers work I had never seen before. The photographer in question was Maurice Broomfield, a pre 21st century British born photographer best known for his work of post-war British industry.
“Broomfield sought to elevate the figure of the worker. Through careful composition and strong lighting his photographs create a sense of the drama and atmosphere of labour. As manufacturing has turned to cheaper markets overseas, these photographs serve as a reminder of an important moment in Britain’s industrial history” [20/03/2012 V&A]
Out of his work exhibited there was one that I took particular interest in that stood out to me from the rest, a photograph of a wire manufacturer in Somerset. Broomfield has managed to glorify this stereotypically mundane job and give it the same amount of awe and amazement November the 5th has to small, transfixed children. Taken in the late 1950’s (when health and safety would have allowed photographers to get that close to industry workers) and when society would have looked down upon such manual labourers, it challenges people’s perceptions and opinions of the common working man.
The white circular sparks that emphasise his black form offer a vision of angelic eternity as they engulf the background; never-ending loops of light. The binary opposition of light and dark creates stark contrasts a) visually but also emotionally as onlookers view this ordinary man highlighted by far from ordinary surroundings, once again glorifying this mundane lifestyle. By choosing his position as so (behind the worker) Broomfield has made the subject photographed anonymous, making the image far more powerful simply because anyone can relate to it or feel a connection. Without the personalization of a particular character, everyone can visualise themselves in that position or someone they know, or merely appreciate those before them, who ran the country through industry.
In this sense I believe that Broomfield’s work is extremely successful in “elevating the figure of the worker” as onlookers admire and value the enormity of the work required before improved technology but also the hidden beauty of it and tranquillity perhaps seldom believed before.