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Bobbins, lace and frilly knickers: heritage and modernity at Headen & Quarmby

Headen & Quarmby production facility, Middleton, Greater Manchester

A small selection of images from a recent shoot at the Headen & Quarmby production facility in Greater Manchester. Recently featured in Mary Portas‘ new show on Channel 4, “Mary’s Bottom Line“, the building’s filled with reminders of the rich heritage, skills and traditions of clothing production in the north of England.

Headen & Quarmby production facility, Middleton, Greater Manchester

Trading for almost eighty years, the building is full of materials, fabrics, machinery and memories which harks back to the glory days of British textile production in the mid 2oth century. There are reminders everywhere of a close-knit community of skilled workers. Now, as the machines operate here once again, age-honoured manufacturing techniques sit cheek-by-jowl with modern computer aided design.

After a decade when the machines were mothballed and production moved overseas, once again the factory is resonating to the sounds and sights of undergarment manufacture, staffed by a group of new apprentices tasked with making Kinky Knickers in Blighty. And right now, these knickers are hot

Headen & Quarmby production facility, Middleton, Greater Manchester

Lovingly made using authentic Nottingham lace, the new Kinky Knickers collection flies the flag for British manufacturing. Championed by retail guru Mary Portas, each pair is handcrafted by local apprentices, and comes in a gorgeous vintage-inspired gift box. Leading retailers… including Liberty, Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, House of Frazer, ASOS, Boots and others… have embraced the chance to carry the cheekily retro, 100% British underwear. Public demand for the new lines is incredibly high, and everyone was working flat out (though not getting their knickers in a twist) when I was onsite.

Headen & Quarmby production facility, Middleton, Greater Manchester

Acclaimed creative agency Mill Co are delivering a new Headen & Quarmby website and brand development, and Anti Limited was commissioned to photograph the detail and character inside in the company’s headquarters in Middleton. As well as a range of intimately observed stills, taking full advantage of the natural light and unprepared working environment, we also captured a 360° panorama of the production floor. This gives vistors a chance to see the story behind the knickers…

Click/tap the image above to view a panoramic 360° view of the scene in your browser

This is a superbly positive project; a great story of British talent and optimism, and it provided an evocative selection of details to capture and highlight. The subject matter gels closely with many personal and professional projects we’ve worked on, and it’s always good to support a scheme which promotes locally made, quality products. There was a tangible pride and professionalism with everyone I met – deservedly so, judging by their products – and I hope they maintain their position as a successful, well-respected British manufacturer for the next few decades. Thanks to all the staff at Headen & Quarmby for their unbridled co-operation and enthusiasm.

Headen & Quarmby production facility, Middleton, Greater Manchester

You can view a larger gallery of photographs from the day’s shoot here on Flickr

Yet more cooling tower views

I couldn’t resist the chance to revisit the iconic cooling towers for a third time in early May, this time with another friend who’s also a photographer. I spent a lot of time onsite capturing HDRs and backplates for a separate sIBL project I’m working on, but I also managed to shoot a couple of panoramas inside the towers themselves.

The greatest challenge on the day was the wind: with the landscape so flat, and the towers themselves acting as giant chimneys, it was often hard to keep the tripod steady for long enough to shoot the exposure ranges. Meanwhile the clouds scudded across the sky, occluding the sun right in the midle of my exposures, creating massive changes in light levels. And finally it was distinctly chilly after the warmth of April. Lots of fun. Never the less, I was more than happy to spend the afternoon capturing some of the details and nuances of this site. There were a lot of changes from time I’d visited in January, and I’ve heard the site may be cleared soon. Glad we got another chance to explore while we could.

HTML5 version

Click the icons above to view a fullscreen 360° view of the scene with Flash (for desktop) or HTML5 (for mobile). You can also view the location in Google Earth. Happy viewing!

HTML5 version

Click the icons above to view a fullscreen 360° view of the scene with Flash (for desktop) or HTML5 (for mobile). You can also view the location in Google Earth. Happy viewing!

More views of the cooling towers

I went back to the site of the wonderful Thorpe Marsh Power Station near Doncaster this weekend with my friend English Electric: he to sample the colossal reverb inside the cooling towers, and I to take more photos. I’d only had a cursory visit in October, which barely whet my appetite, so I’ve being eager to go back ever since.

I got a lot of great stills, and also snapped a couple of panos. All are multiple exposure shots, but I’ve gone back to using Enfuse for these, rather than a ‘true’ HDR workflow, as I feel it works better for the subject matter.

Anyway, enough of the technical stuff. If you can visit this site, do so. It’s a photographer’s dream…

Click below for a full screen 360° view of the scene with Flash, to read more on Wikipedia, to see the location in Google Earth, or to view an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch compatible version.

Click below for a full screen 360° view of the scene with Flash, to read more on Wikipedia, to see the location in Google Earth, or to view an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch compatible version.

Hyperboloid Towers of Dub

I’ve always wanted to get inside a cooling tower: those curved iconic structures indelibly associated with power stations. The nearest I got was a couple of years ago when I shot the soon-to-be destroyed towers near Meadowhall from the viaduct nearby. I sadly discounted ever being able to climb inside one of these giant structures, assuming that health & safety and security concerns would rule out any exploratory access…

So you can probably imagine my excitement when a few months ago I read there was a disused and decommissioned power station near Doncaster – Thorpe Marsh – where almost everything bar the six cooling towers had been demolished. These remained due to concerns that demolition could threaten the safety of nearby canal walls. More recently I happened to be driving up the A1 and as I neared the turn-off for Doncaster the rainclouds parted, and provided the opportunity for a little exploration. Fortune smiled, so I turned off and headed to Thorpe Marsh.

The site itself is rather eerie: these towers are truly massive and you you approach they loom up and over you almost impossibly. Getting inside wasn’t hard, but was very spooky. Every noise, from the klaxons on the nearby level crossing, to the crackle of what I presume was heat-proof lining blowing slowly around the floor, echoed and swirled around me. I was convinced somebody was walking behind me at one point. You’ve never heard echoes and reverberations like it: the sound fades and then seems to almost be amplified again as it circles back towards you. Even the click of the camera shutter sounded like a pebble being thrown down a well, amplified and exaggerated dramatically.

I love looking up in this shot, eyes drawn inexorably to the darkening skies above, framed by the aperture of the tower opening. As you’d expect there’s a vast dynamic light range between inside and out: this was shot with a six exposure bracketed sequence and tweaked in post to give some idea of the drama of the scene. Amazing place!

Click below for a full screen 360° view of the scene with Flash, to read more on Wikipedia, to see the location in Google Earth, or to view an iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch compatible version.

The transmitter tower at Emley Moor

Looking from Emley Moor, between Wakefield and Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, on a exceptionally cold, clear evening. The giant concrete TV transmission tower at Emley Moor is the UK’s tallest freestanding structure, and photos can’t do justice to the sheer enormity of it. Its predecessor, a smaller steel tower, came to an ignominious end in the winter of 1969 when it succumbed to an unfortunate combination of low frequency oscillations and accumulated weight of ice on it. This version is built to withstand even the most extreme conditions, and can be seen from over 30 miles away on a clear day.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash or QuickTime format, locate the scene in Google Earth, or view the Wikipedia article on this site.

Click below for a fullscreen 360° view of the scene in Flash or QuickTime format, locate the scene in Google Earth, or view the Wikipedia article on this site.