Women of Iron features striking portraits of the female workforce as the shipyard worked on the RRS Sir David Attenborough, taken by young women photographers from Wirral.
The photographers were given unprecedented access to the shipyard earlier this year, during the final stages of the RRS Sir David Attenborough’s construction. The exhibition captures women who work at Cammell Laird and those working with British Antarctic Survey, who commissioned the vessel, through portraits, landscapes and abstract images.
The exhibition opens to the public two days after the official naming ceremony at the Birkenhead shipyard, which will see the eyes of the world on Wirral – with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Sir David Attenborough in attendance.
Women of Iron is part of Wirral’s year as Borough of Culture for Liverpool City Region and is the latest exhibition in its Made of Iron series exploring Wirral’s unique connection to shipbuilding. This weekend only, visitors to the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum will be able to see Women of Iron alongside the Six Vessels exhibition which explores the stories behind six Wirral-build ships, which has been extended to Sunday 29 September.
The project was delivered by Creative Youth Development, working with VidA Creative Learning – a community interest company specialising in visual arts and training. The young photographers learned technical skills and techniques to capture the images on film, as well as how to work on site with unfamiliar surroundings and gain the trust of their subjects to produce the portraits of the women at work. They also studied female photographers who have documented industry to influence their final shots.
Suzanne St Claire, Director of VidA Creative, commented: “We have studied photographers such as Martine Franck and Margaret Bourke White. The girls were particularly influenced by the latter and have responded to her work by documenting abstract industrialisation on their digital cameras.”
The resulting photographs are a modern interpretation of Tom Wood’s photographs of the shipyard workers from 1993-96, which were shown at the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum last year.
Colin Simpson, Principal Museums Officer for the Wirral Museums Service added: “Women of Iron tells a unique story of this monumental local business, as well as celebrating the impact that Laird’s has had on Wirral’s economy and local families. Six Vessels has attracted the attention of print and television media and thousands of visitors. We are delighted to be able extend the exhibition so that visitors can see both exhibitions together and compare and contrast the old and the new.”
Lucy Barrow, Assistant Director for Culture and Visitor Economy, Wirral Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted that this exhibition is part of Wirral’s Borough of Culture year – what a great legacy from our programme this year to be able to support such exciting young photographers as they embark on their creative journey.”
Also running in parallel at the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum is Distinctly, which gathers work by ten documentary photographers, as part of the 2019 LOOK International Photo Biennial curated by Open Eye Gallery; and a retrospective exhibition from Wirral-born internationally recognized painter, Christian Furr.
The Borough of Culture initiative was introduced by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and is designed to encourage cultural activities across the region.
Women of Iron runs from Saturday 28 September – Sunday 24 November. The Williamson Art Gallery & Museum is open Wednesday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm and entry is free.
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