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Copper Horses by Chris Harrison

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Start Date:15th November 2013
End Date:9th February 2014
Copper Horses by Chris Harrison

Copper Horses by Chris Harrison, Bradford Fellowship in Photography 2012 � 13 (National Media Museum, 15 November 2013 � 9 February 2014) is a new exhibition reflecting on identity, class, British industry and the photographer�s relationship with his father, John Jaques Harrison (known as Jack).

Chris was born and raised in Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, where his father worked in the Reyrolle factory - an engineering works that once employed thousands of people in the town.

He recalls how his father came home from work each day �utterly shattered�, wearing steel toe-capped boots and a boiler suit, and smelling of burnt metal and sweat. As a young boy he imagined his father was an astronaut, an adventurer, or a deep-sea diver; wearing himself out undertaking adventurous and heroic deeds.

His impressions started to change when, aged about eight-years-old, he became aware his father was an industrial worker doing a challenging physical job and being paid piece work rates. As he matured, Chris recognised how his father had toiled on a daily basis to provide for his family, how his job was part of his identity, and how it helped shape their relationship.

Chris said: �As much as anything I wanted this work to give me an insight into what my father did each and every day for nearly fifty years, from apprenticeship to retirement, but I also wanted to celebrate British manufacturing - an industry with just as many "creative" people as the Media and the Arts.

�I am fascinated by those things which are hidden in plain sight, and to me British manufacturing has become one of those things. It is still a huge part of this country and its economy, and the fact my father was involved in it his whole working life gives me a particular personal interest.�

For Copper Horses Chris has produced 91 photographs which depict some of his father�s artefacts (a micrometer, a set of dominoes, a photograph of him aged 16 as a champion swimmer) and the type of machinery he worked with each day, from 15-years-old until retirement. Using a Hasselblad 60 mega-pixel camera Chris has captured, in minute detail, the inner workings of a 17-tonne borer similar to the equipment operated by his father and colleagues.

Handling these 4m tall machines to drill pieces of metal that could themselves span several metres, they worked to measurements of thousandths of an inch. It was a meticulous yet physical task that left scars on both the machine components and their own bodies (Jack once reclaimed a co-worker�s fingers from a piece of machinery).

The title of the exhibition derives from the name given to a copper component for electrical substations produced by Jack Harrison and his fellow industrial metalworkers in Jarrow. They dreaded working on these items as copper is a difficult metal to drill and prohibits working at speed, meaning the components represented a potential loss of earnings for the pieceworkers.

Chris explained: �My dad used to say, �Copper Horses; they fight you all the way�.�

The exhibition marks the end of Chris�s tenure as the 16th Bradford Fellow. Established in 1985, the Fellowship in Photography is a partnership between Bradford College, the University of Bradford and the National Media Museum. Working with mid-career photographers, the partners support the culture of photography through a varied programme of exhibition and teaching activities.

Exhibition curator Brian Liddy said: �Chris has been working as a commercial and art photographer for 23 years, and has brought his precise and technically astute style to a very personal subject matter. The Museum, College and University are delighted to be working with Chris on the 16th Bradford Fellowship in Photography.�

Venue Map

Address:Princes Way
Bradford
West Yorkshire
BD1 1NN
England
Phone:0870 701 0200

Images from Copper Horses by Chris Harrison

Image 1

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