With the announcement of a revival of Twin Peaks, it seemed timely that this collection of Lynch’s photos crossed my desk, offering some insight to not only what the man gets up to in his time away from filmmaking, but also what informs his work more than anything resembling conventional narrative.
Lynch’s first two films, Eraserhead and The Elephant Man, were the ones most preoccupied with the industrial landscape — it was crumbling in Eraserhead, but vigorous in The Elephant Man. He never quite matched those again for this enthusiasm, but this book, which contains photos dating back to the 1980s, reveals that it never went away, remaining in his psyche in pure form.
The Factory Photos (Amazon) is a compilation of Lynch’s aesthetic with all the window dressing stripped away. It contains exactly what the title promises and not much more. This must be what location scouting photography from Eraserhead looked like, and I am pleased that Lynch has made the landscape the focus rather that inserting any forced narrative on top of it. These decrepit walls and floors have stories to tell, but in their own context and through the filter of Lynch’s eye, they are even more mysterious than anything Lynch could put in a movie.
The beginning of the book features several lovely, slightly demented factory paintings, as well as text pieces and interviews offering some analysis of what we’re about to see. The black and white photos that follow are often unassuming, even geeky in its preoccupations, and what Lynch views is the star of the show more than what he impresses on it. A scuffed wall is presented for itself, not what a Lynch narrative might otherwise bring to it, and the purity of such presentation, whether applied to a wall or a fence or a window or valves or whatever.
But the photographs are decidedly preoccupied with textures and patterns within the crumble. That’s the irony of decay — it’s the most natural pattern-making force in the world. It’s a force of randomness, to be certain, but the result in conjunction with the human eye rarely seems that way. And so the brick walls and debris-covered floors of these factories as captured by Lynch document this creative partnership between man and nature. We supply the material, nature gets to work at it, we appreciate.