Werk / Work

I grew up in the wonderful world of a biscuit factory. My father had started his career there in 1950 as a bookkeeper and climbed up to financial director. In the same year I started to photograph this series of work in production factories in 1990, the eighty years old family company was closed. My father had already sold his part a few years before and retired.

Since I was a boy I had often worked there. The nature of the work that had to be done in the factory had changed over the years: it became less physical and more controlling. In the highly automated production process a worker for instance would press a button on a remote control in order to lift 50kg heavy sugar bags, where before he had to lift the bag by himself.

Workers could no longer be seen as heroes, as manpower had disappeared. The body language in this series of photographs illustrate the change. Visiting production factories in The Netherlands I often found a worker sitting in a chair. He would come into action only after an alarm bell was ringing, caused by an intrusion. I photographed a range of activities however, in an often mysterious surrounding. That was the other element that was visual attractive for me. When we enter a production plant we step into an utilitaristic world, where nothing is designed and everything is useful in the benefit of the process.

It’s a world not many people are familiar with nowadays. We buy things in a shop, but we don’t have a clue how the toothpaste came into the tube.


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