As Bedford entered a significant era in its history, with the imminent construction of 19,500 homes and a vast programme of regeneration planned, BCA Gallery in association with Renaissance Bedford commissioned artist Michael Collins to make a series of vast, highly detailed, landscape photographs. The focus of the exhibition was Bedford’s Brickworks, once the largest brick plant in the world, giving way to one of the largest new developments to be built in the UK in recent times.
The Stewartby site is hugely symbolic to Bedford. It is a prominent reminder of the town’s industrial heritage, and explains why Bedford has the highest concentration of Italian families in the UK. The Brickworks were the primary motivation for the post war inward migration from Italy providing essential employment during the ‘Building Boom’ of the 1950s. The Brickworks closed in February 2008 and Stewartby like many sites in Bedford, was on the cusp of change.
Michael Collins makes ‘Record Picture’ photographs. A ‘Record Picture’ is a detailed and faithful representation of a scene, a medium historically employed to record the processes of change on large scale civil engineering developments or to document the various everyday tools and processes of industry. In relation to his images of Stewartby, Collins states “I have tried to make these photographs of Stewartby as faithful as possible; it’s my way of saluting the place.”