Kim Shaw Photography
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Paper Ghosts     Isla Gray     Earthly Bodies     99% Humidity     Lilliputian Landscapes     

Paper Ghosts - The Old Vinyl Factory

Two years ago I was given the opportunity to shoot at the Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes. The Old Vinyl Factory is a remarkable, derelict site, designed by Wallace Gilbert and Partners. Wallace Gilbert and Partners were responsible for some of the most iconic industrial architecture in Britain, the Hoover Building and the Firestone Factory for example. The Old Vinyl Factory was the thriving manufacturing epicentre for EMI. It was used for the production of gramophones, hifis, and, as the name suggests, the pressing of vinyl LPs. The site is slated for redevelopment and I took the opportunity to poke around even though derelict buildings have never really been my thing.

Over the course of the next 18 months, these dark, wet, pigeon infested buildings began to reveal themselves to be no less stoic and grand than the greatest churches in Europe. And like those churches, these great spaces felt utterly forlorn without their music. It was this emptiness that began to resonate with me - I came to understand this space as a metaphor for my own experience with photography. Like thousands of darkrooms, these spaces teeter on the edge of oblivion. To some degree, digital technology has changed to working practice of all artists, be they musicians, photographers, designers, painters, sculptors…

Among the most interesting aspects of this project were the conversations I had with musicians, industry people, and collectors about the Old Vinyl Factory. It became clear that what they miss most about analogue music is the physical experience of it– the feel of the vinyl in their hands, the design of the album cover, the liner notes, etc. Again, the parallel with the photographic arts is uncanny. Most modern photographs never exist as a print; they are instead viewed on the backlit screens of computers and phones. Like modern music, they lack physicality.

This idea of physicality informed every decision I made when shooting these images. I worked with film and a Holga. I have maintained throughout the course of this project that the Holga is the vinyl of the camera world! It’s imperfect, reductive and boy does it scratch film. But like vinyl, I think the result is a strange sort of perfection. The 12x12 prints are all made in the darkroom. They are the same size as an album cover, the perfect fit in the hand.


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