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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils (detail)

Work / Photography

Iconic old mills shot with style and respect by photographer Lee Mawdsley

We’ve featured architectural photographer Lee Mawdsley on the site a few times over the years and have often focussed on his masterful documentation of ultra-modern workplaces, all gleaming surfaces and tangled wires. But among his new updates, one project in particular demonstrates his versatility.

He was commissioned to shoot the Millennium Mills in the heart of London’s docklands, once a busy, noisy part of the city’s commercial heartbeat. The now derelict structures retain a great deal of character and have become icons of post-industrial Britain, thanks largely to Derek Jarman who used them as the backdrop for The Smiths’ video Ask and then extensively in his avant-garde film The Last of England.

“The place was covered in asbestos and pigeon poo and we had to wear all the right protective equipment in order to gain access,” Lee explains.

“To shoot dereliction made a refreshing change, although capturing the form of a derelict building is much the same as capturing a modern one.

“The gaping holes in the floor that previously housed machinery made it much more exciting but the surface textures are what make the real difference – the amazing patterns that are created on top of the patterns that have existed in the form of the building since its creation in 1905. The layers of history are palpable.”

We have spoken before about the dangers of so-called ruin porn – photographic projects that glorify destruction, decay and dereliction in a lurid or gratuitous way – but Lee’s work is of a different order. His pictures celebrate the past rather than ogle at its disappearance, and he avoids the cliched hunt for poignant narrative that the ruin pornographers so revel in.

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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils

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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils

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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils

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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils

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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils

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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils

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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils

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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils

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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils

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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils

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Lee Mawdsley: Millennium Mils