Glynde Forge is a series of twenty-two black and white photographs taken between 2005 and 2006 which documents a deserted forge near Lewes in East Sussex on the south coast of England. Seike happened upon the forge in the summer of 2003 and returned to photograph it two years later, taking all the images during a six-month period. They document the interior of the forge, focusing on the objects that were abandoned by the former owners, such as tools and mechanical equipment. The series as a whole deals with themes of labour and, in particular, changes in the industrial make-up of the country. The subject matter itself, and the manner in which it is photographed, lends the work a melancholic tone. This could be understood as a quietly wistful comment on what is lost as mechanisation takes over from local industry.
Several of the images are detailed studies of particular equipment. The close-up focus and framing at times decontextualises the objects pictured and concentrates the viewer’s attention more closely on shape, tone and light. This in turn reimagines the mundane work equipment of the forge as still-life arrangements of beauty and visual interest. The close-up nature of the shots also draws attention to the dust which covers the objects, and the role played by light in the photographs, as the artist has explained:
When I started taking these pictures I felt like meeting old friends who have been neglected – under the darkness with time and dust and [it] seemed no one cares [to give them] even one look. They were all covered by dust for years and years, shape was bent and pieces were missing but once the light gets in from windows all things come into harmony. It seems light knows dust, dust knows light, I was fascinated to discover this each time. Time is passing everything and my camera sees the light and dust and often they can be quite beautiful.
(Tomio Seike in Hamiltons 2006, n.p.)
Tomio Seike is a Japanese photographer known best for his portrait and still life work. Until his series Overlook 2010–12, which documents changes along a stretch of strand on Brighton beach, he worked solely in black and white. The images in Glynde Forge can be shown as a complete series or separately. Tate’s copies are number seven in the edition of fifteen.
Tomio Seike, Glynde Forge, exhibition catalogue, Hamiltons Gallery, London 2006.
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