At this time of year my thoughts turn to friends and family back home in England, which prompted me to go through my archive of images taken from the north east where I grew up.
This part of the country is one of stark contrasts. Magnificent ocean vistas, rolling hills, quiet countryside and ancient villages provide the backdrop for traditional industries such as fishing and farming, which merge with the modern industrial skyline that sprung up almost overnight in the 19th century to satisfy the more prosperous ambitions of a nation hooked on the idea of global industrial domination. Although heavy industry in the area has been in decline for many years, the pulse of the factories and furnaces still beats, although often barely recognizable. Many cling onto life by the barest of threads, while others wait for the day when the fuel that feeds them becomes too expensive to sustain their hunger.
However, the chimneys, furnaces and factories that break the horizon are mere symbols of a strong culture born of the hardships endured working ironstone, rolling steel and blending chemicals. Although the wrecking ball will one day come to town and remove the structures from the landscape, the people that fed the furnaces will remain. Their community spirit, innovation and hardworking ethics will allow them to emerge, like a phoenix from the flames and move them in new directions.
Each time I go home I am drawn to the industrial landscape. It is a part of my heritage – my father, grandfathers and great grandfathers all worked in the factories, most succumbing to the life threatening effects of smoke, soot, dust, heat and chemicals. Men of few words and emotions, they gave their lives so their families were not in want and their children could live better lives than they did. The discipline instilled in daily daily life was a mere extension of the self-discipline and routine required to perform duties at work. It was understood that if you ever wanted anything in life, you had to work for it. Nothing could or would ever be gifted to you on a plate. A concept often lost in today’s culture of exuberance and over indulgence.
See more images of Teesside on my website at http://aransomephoto.com/Teesside/Teesside.html