Michael Kenna’s Abandoned Lace Factories

Directing his lens towards overlooked corners, unlikely angles and forgotten structures, Michael Kenna allows the footprints and shadows left by departed occupants to instil his photographs with memory. These memories show a sometimes harmonious, but often disjunctive, connection between the environment and its inhabitants. Kenna’s photographs of disused lace factories in Calais are poignant mementos of the now defunct industry.

Having grown up in the small but industrialised town of Widnes in northern England, Kenna spent his childhood surrounded by factories and started photographing industry in the 1980s on realising that photography did not have to be escapist and pastoral. He photographed the Calais factories over eight years as the last remaining ones closed down.

The series charts a preoccupation with documenting the transition of time. Lace Factories, Study 5, taken in 1998, shows this transition as the factories are overtaken by nature. A broken chair rests against a window as a tree branch creeps inside the building. The absence of the long gone workers is still palpable: the land stands to be written and rewritten by its inhabitants but remains to narrate their story after they have left.

Explore More