David Lynch Untitled (Lodz), 2000 © David Lynch  Courtesy of the artist

David Lynch, “Untitled (Lodz)” (2000) (© David Lynch, courtesy the artist)

David Lynch definitely knows an unnerving shot when he sees one. This is, after all, the filmmaker who brought us the distorted reality of Twin Peaks, culminating in the mind-melting Black Lodge and, well, absolutely everything in Eraserhead. Now Lynch is presenting two decades of photographs of factories in decay.

In January, The Factory Photographs will open in an exhibition at  Photographers’ Gallery in London and will be published in a book by the same name from Prestel. Unlike Lynch’s paintings, with their intriguingly messy surrealism, his photographs have a starker, more dream-like atmosphere, similar to his films. Earlier this year, Paris Photo invited him to choose his favorite 99 photographs from the fair, and most of his selections focused on a voyeurism Lynch fans would find familiar, often including human figures. In the Factory Photographs, however, there are no people at all.

The over 80 black-and-white photographs were taken in old, rundown factories in New York, England, Germany, and Poland — great hubs for Industrial Revolution ruins — between 1980 and 2000. As Lynch states in the release for the London exhibition:

I just like going into strange worlds. A lot more happens when you open yourself up to the work and let yourself act and react to it. Every work ‘talks’ to you, and if you listen to it, it will take you places you never dreamed of.

From the glimpses given by preview images such as the one above, the derelict structures look plenty eerie, with the sort of reality-rattling brooding that makes his films so enduring. Nature only comes in through its winter death, with trees stripped of leaves. Lynch has often expressed his adoration for exploring abandoned factories, as in this 2009 interview with Moby, where he said he loved how factories are like “cathedrals” of industry with their machinery relics and how “there’s so many textures throughout, and it’s so mysterious to go through them” and experience a mood that’s out of touch with the current rise of glassy “green” buildings.

There’s something rather melancholy about an old factory, places where once the future of progress churned but is now halted. The photographs in the exhibition will be accompanied by sound works by Lynch that capture some of that industrial atmosphere, resurrecting the obsolete buildings in a frozen cinema.

David Lynch: The Factory Photographs will be at the Photographers’ Gallery (16-18 Ramillies Street, London) from January 17 to March 30. The book David Lynch: The Factory Photographs will be available in January from Prestel.

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Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print...