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(Credit: Manchester International Festival)

The mysterious world of David Lynch’s photographs of old factories


David Lynch has made no secret of his infatuation with the industrial revolution throughout his career, a theme that has followed him around in multiple different artistic creations.

Take, for example, Eraserhead, Lynch’s breakout project which is filmed in black and white and tells the story of Henry Spencer who is left to care for his grossly deformed child in a desolate industrial landscape. While creating Twin Peaks, Lynch took on a side project with the Brooklyn Academy of Music after they approached him and composer Angelo Badalamenti to create a theatrical piece of work. The result saw Lynch coin the phrase “Industrial Symphonies” while completing his 1990 avant-garde musical play Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted.

The factories of his film The Elephant Man, the sawmill in Twin Peaks and the lawn mower in The Straight Story all relate back to the industrial revolution theme that Lynch has carried along with him throughout his creative journey. Making this topic more literal, Lynch made more of his interest in photography and travelled to northern England to take photos of the degrading industrial landscape.

“Well…if you said to me, ‘Okay, we’re either going down to Disneyland or we’re going to see this abandoned factory,’ there would be no choice,” Lynch once in an interview. “I’d be down there at the factory. I don’t really know why. It just seems like such a great place to set a story.”

With more expansive trips to factories in Berlin, Poland and New York to follow, Lynch build up an archive of images which would later be collected into his book David Lynch: The Factory Photographs, a hardback edited by Petra Giloy-Hirtz. “Anyone familiar with David Lynch’s cinematic achievement will identify similarities between this series of photographs and his most powerful films,” Giloy-Hirtz writes in the books’ description. “Dark and beautiful, mystical and enigmatic, these photos reveal Lynch’s unique style. 

“The exterior and interior, black and white shots of factories in Berlin, Poland, New York, England, and other locations are filled with Lynchian characteristics: labyrinthine passages, decaying walls, industrial waste, and detritus. Devoid of nature, the dying, manmade structures are actually being overtaken by nature’s innate power. They are haunting cathedrals of a bygone industrial era – the perfect setting for a David Lynch film, and a revealing addition to his unique and fascinating oeuvre.”

Speaking about his love for factories and the landscape as a whole, Lynch once said: “It’s an incredible mood,” in an interview with Dazed Magazine. “I feel like I’m in a place that’s just magical, where nature is reclaiming these derelict factories. It’s very dreamy. Every place you turn, there’s something so sensational and surprising – it’s the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. All the cities are looking more and more the same. The real treasures are going away; the mood they create is going away.”

Below, enjoy a glimpse inside the world of Lynch’s old factories.