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Beaton goes large

Cecil Beaton’s shipbuilding pics arrive at the IWMN, and stand proud outside

Published on June 3rd 2010.

Beaton goes large

30 years after the death of photographer Cecil Beaton, Imperial War Museum North is displaying some of his iconic Second World War shipyard images in huge 5m high frames outside the Museum - on The Quays in Manchester.

Beaton’s celebrity images include the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Mick Jagger. Yet he also worked as an official photographer for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War.

Beaton was best known for society portraits and fashion photography, working in Hollywood and for Vogue and Vanity Fair. His celebrity images include the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Mick Jagger. Yet he also worked as an official photographer for the Ministry of Information during the Second World War. Commissioned to record the work of northern shipyards, the resulting photographs are a striking combination of intimate portraits and dizzying views of the shipyard architecture.

The series of six photographs gives a powerful insight into British shipbuilding industry during the Second World War. Highlights of the display include a female welder in Tyneside, standing proudly in front of an enormous, half built vessel. Alongside two imposing images of ships under construction is the evocative photograph of a young boy, hard at work with ripped clothes and a face blackened by dirt.

In 1939, British shipbuilding was a dying industry. Many yards had shut during the Depression and skilled workers were lost to other jobs or the Armed Forces. To fight the war and to bring in vital imports by sea, Britain needed more ships and the workers to build them. At its peak in September 1943, over 270,000 people were working in British shipbuilding, almost double the 1939 figure.

Beaton's images will be displayed in large scale frames in front of Imperial War Museum North, at The Quays on the Manchester Ship Canal. Although no longer a working port, in the Second World War, the Quays, then the Port of Manchester, was a busy hub for merchant ships bringing in their vital cargoes from overseas.

Visitors inspired by Beaton's photography can find out more about war at sea inside the Museum. In All Aboard: Stories of War at Sea, which opens with a family launch day on 17 July, visitors of all ages can embark on a voyage of discovery through some of the most momentous events in British history - from the First World War to the present day.

The Imperial War Museum North is open 7 days a week from 10am - 6pm (Nov to Feb 10am - 5pm) with free admission. The Quays, TraffordWharf Road, Trafford Park, Manchester M17 1TZ (close to Harbour City Metrolink and Junction 9 of the M60) T: 0161 836 4000 E:iwmnorth@iwm.org.ukwww.iwm.org.uk

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