In this series, I sought to explore the deep transformations undergone by France in the industrial sector. From the beginning of the 19th century, France saw a considerable rise in industrial production – in fact, from 1870 to 1910, production doubled in just forty years. This upsurge, known today as the second industrial revolution, was made possible (amongst other things) by electricity, as the first dynamo was created in 1871. However, carbon remained, for a few more decades, the principal source of energy.
Factories, mines and manufacturing units set up at this time still carry the markings of power. This was a conscious decision on the part of headquarters in a race to increase production. The units can be seen along waterways, with their high chimneys and stepped roofs that allowed for adequate lighting. Each sector came up with a new building shape to respond to the needs of production: tall and wide chimneys soar alongside blast furnaces, iron and concrete shafts dominate the mining landscape and large constructions with imposing facades are ideal to set up production chains.
Following globalization and a consequent delocalization of activities, production at these sites stopped. The buildings were then emptied of their valuable machinery and left to the vagaries of time. While some were immediately destroyed, others, located on valuable land, were sold and used for different purposes. Others still were declared national or world heritage and have remained preserved for the moment. It seemed to me necessary to create a photographic inventory of these buildings, to ensure that French industrial heritage lives on in our collective memory.