I didn’t know much about Bradford or wool before I went to photograph there. I knew this was the birthplace of the industrial revolution, and being from weather-worn Norway I wear a lot of wool. But for me this was about exploring something new.
I was pretty apprehensive, as I often find it very difficult to photograph industry and manufacturing. Modern facilities are mostly incredibly sterile. It’s not great fun to photograph people in a clean room, monitoring an automatic process on a computer screen. I figured I had to be prepared to find a way round this.
But when I walked into my first mill, William Halstead, I quickly realised that I was wrong. The old buildings were filled with tangible history and the mills themselves were populated by a great cast of characters, many of whom had spent their entire working lives in them. I was intrigued by how much the processes of weaving, scouring and dyeing wool had a very human touch to them, and I was fascinated, too, by how much it all resembled what wool production must have looked like 100 years ago.
There is always something alluring about seeing what goes into producing the things we consume. Often there is an ugly truth to the production that we don’t want to admit to. But in the mills I was struck by the innately beautiful nature of the processes. There was something mesmerising, even hypnotic, about all the steps the wool goes through before it turns into cloth.
Other photographers include Martin Parr, Stuart Franklin, Mark Power, Peter Marlow, Chris Steele-Perkins, David Hurn, Alessandra Sanguinetti. Peter Marsh, the FT’s former manufacturing editor, introduces the issue