Cammell Laird 2019 and Women of Iron captures the essence of an iconic local industry through a selection of portraits, landscapes, still life and abstract images telling a unique story and celebrating the impact Cammell Laird has had on Wirral’s economy and families.
Six young female photographers aged 14 – 18 were given access in July 2019 when the yard was buoyant and working towards the completion of RRS Sir David Attenborough. During the visits the group had the opportunity to observe and capture the female staff in their working environment.
Suzanne St Clare worked with the young people over the summer to prepare them for the shoots. The group was set the challenge to photograph a current interpretation of the shipyard in response to Tom Wood’s iconic Cammell Laird 1993-1996 which documented an exclusively male workforce when the yard was in a state of decline.
Medium format film cameras were used to take the female workers’ portraits and industrial landscapes. The young women, some who had never used a camera before, learnt the mechanics of using non-digital equipment, light metering, lighting techniques and the aesthetics of image making and composition.
In classroom based study the group was introduced to influential female photographers, Martine Franck and Margaret Bourke- White who both photographed in industry with a unique and distinctive style. The girls were particularly influenced by the latter and responded to her work by documenting abstract industrialisation using their digital cameras.
The quality of the images produced reflects the commitment of these young women to the project, their willingness to learn, hard work and creative flair.