In the late 19th Century, Sheffield was the steel capital of the world, and when Portland Works opened in 1879, it epitomised a city and an industry in ascension. Today, over 140 years after its construction, Portland Works is one of the last working examples of a purpose-built metal trades factory in the UK, now sat in the looming shadow of the modernised Bramall Lane football stadium, home of Sheffield United FC, or The Blades.
One of the remaining metal tradesmen in Portland Works is knife-maker, Stuart Mitchell. In 1980, his parents moved the family business, Pat Mitchell Cutlers, across town to Portland Works and Stuart, aged 10, began helping out in the workshop for pocket-money at the weekends. 40 years later and, although Pat Mitchell Cutlers is sadly no more, that same family workshop is now home to Stuart Mitchell Knives, the setting for these photographs.
Rather than focusing on the sharpened and shining finished products, these images honour the erosion, scars and callouses that adorn the tools and machinery of the workshop, formed from decades of hard, unforgiving work. When combined with the enticing textures of the raw materials that will form the knives, the workshop becomes a fascinating and beguiling visual experience.
Theo Deproost is a commercial and fine-art photographer, based in London. Theo studied BA (hons) Photography at Falmouth University before moving to London to pursue a career in the photography industry.
Over the last two years, Theo’s commissions include projects for ITV, LuminAID, Cotopaxi and Women To Look Up To, whilst his fine-art work has featured in the British Journal of Photography, Paris Photo Prize, PDN Photo Annual, International Photography Awards, FIX Photo Festival and the British Photography Awards. Theo will also be opening his first solo exhibition on 14th March 2020 at Museum In The Park, Stroud, UK. The exhibition runs until 26th April.