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Lucy Bell Gallery opens exhibition of photographs by Bruce Rae
Bruce Rae, Apprentices - Swanhunters, 1984. © Bruce Rae.

ST LEONARDS ON SEA.- Lucy Bell is presenting an exhibition of new flower pictures by Bruce Rae, which are presented alongside his acclaimed series of shipbuilders which is currently also on exhibition at Side Gallery, in Newcastle. Renowned for his vintage techniques and sumptuous prints, Rae’s work is held in various collections including The National Portrait Gallery, The V&A, and The Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.

“The pictures that I make are records of events. In the case of the shipyards a world soon to be lost, was recorded. The flowers are records of transience, of fleeting mortality”

“The conversion of a metallic salt, be it base as in iron, noble as in silver or precious as in platinum into its pure metal is the basis of the process that we call photographic. Photographic because the catalyst of these metamorphoses being radiant energy, or light. I was fortunate that in my training a knowledge of physics and chemistry was at least important as a familiarity with the works of Susan Sontag or Walter Benjamin. The prints in this exhibit are of silver, a noble metal or precious platinum. Apart from their separate aesthetic attractions, their principal difference concerns longevity.

The pictures that I make are records of events. In the case of the shipyards a world soon to be lost, was recorded. The flowers are records of transience, of fleeting mortality”

David Lillington has observed of Rae’s flower prints in the Arts Review “ They are certainly not about gardening. The roses are open to interpretations which give them human attributes, it’s possible to see them drooping, weeping, being young, middle aged or dying”

In 1983 the newspapers were full of the threat to the shipbuilding industry. The nationalisation of the industry, creating British Shipbuilders, had only taken place in 1977. By the end of 1982 they'd already closed half the yards, but the British Shipbuilders Act of 1983 required them to privatise the rest of the assets. This was the context within which Side Gallery commissioned photographer Bruce Rae to document the yards on the Tyne. Rae documented Swan Hunters, Neptune and Cleland's in Wallsend, the private Smith's Repair in North Shields, as well as Readhead's in South Shields and Clark Hawthorn's marine engine works in Wallsend, both of which were already in the process of closure.

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