Unearth

Unrefined beauty: photographs taken from a small plane with its door removed reveal Rotterdam’s ore deposits and oil refineries to be an unexpected wellspring for an imposing abstract series.

  • Words + Photography: Brendan Austin

The Unearth series of pictures were taken from the air above the industrial harbour of Rotterdam. I have always been drawn to photographing industrial and disused locations, including secret tunnels under London, a nuclear submarine base in Crimea and a radio telescope in Latvia. However, nothing prepared me for the incredible raw patterns of the oil refineries and piles of ore deposits in Rotterdam.

‘Graphic form has always been a driving aspect of my work. I am always in pursuit of simplification, minimal lines and negative space.’

Shooting from a small plane with the door removed and circling in hard turns above the smoke pipes, I felt like I was literally hanging in the sky, looking directly down onto what we have unearthed from nature.

‘Technically my priority is to create images that are not flat - a challenge when shooting aerials.’

Graphic form has always been a driving aspect of my work. Technically my priority is to create images that are not flat – a challenge when shooting aerials.

‘Whenever possible I like to shoot in pairs or as a triptych. Unearth gave me the opportunity to set up a grid like series.’

My father worked as an oil engineer, so in many respects I have been brought up with a connection to these areas. I’m fascinated by the complexities of the refinery; the intricate details of the pipes and switches.

This was set directly alongside the endless piles of crude ore, like an example not only of our ingenuity, but also the undeniable cost to the environment.

Brendan Austin is a photographer based in London.

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