Exhibition review: Chris Harrison – National Media Museum

When Chris Harrison was a boy, growing up in Jarrow, he believed his Dad was a deep-sea diver who had adventures every day. In reality his Dad worked in a factory as a precision engineer. Every day he used a huge machine to bore complex shapes from cast metal to exacting specifications. The most challenging pieces were nicknamed Copper Horses, because ‘they fight you all the way’.

By the time Chris had grown up he realised his Dad wasn’t an adventurer. Instead, like many others, he worked hard to provide for his family in a difficult, skilled and often unappreciated job. Lately Chris has been thinking about his relationship with his Dad and how it has changed over the years. These photographs are the result.

CH1On the surface, these photographs look slightly mundane, however looking deeper, Harrison’s idea was to break down the machine in order to understand his Dad a little better. He examined and documented the machine inside and out to explore how it made his Dad grumpy and sweaty in the evenings. Instead of interrogating his Dad, who always looked on the bright side, he documented the intricate processes that he performed on a daily basis. These photographs have been beautifully taken, their depth of tone and texture turn quite ordinary subjects into works of art. Harrison has been careful in his composition in order to keep this series consistent; placing the object in the centre of the frame and matching each surface edge.


Chris had vivid memories from when he was a boy and his Dad worked in a factory. Images of the machine his Dad worked on are arranged with others relating to the smells and stories his Dad conjured up to describe the daily grind of working life to his son.CH3Above, Harrison has given a stage to a simple plate of vegetables. What we as the viewers do not realise, is the blood sweat and tears that his Dad experienced to provide his family with such high quality, fresh vegetables. This is a photograph of something that, as children, we do not appreciate; food on the table. Rich in colour and tone, Harrison’s image causes us to take a step back and realise how beautiful it is that hard working parents like his, spend hours grafting in order to give the best possible care to their children. This exhibition is a visual interpretation of good work ethics; you have to knuckle down to experience the good things in life.CH4


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