In mid 2010 I was contracted by Standard Bank to document the old Ussher Industrial complex on the corner of Sauer and Village Road in the banking centre of Johannesburg City. A few years earlier the bank purchased the property from the Ussher family. Much of the end of Sauer Street is already taken up by three large Standard Bank high-rise buildings as well as a large multi-level parking building. It was only logical that the large area that the Ussher complex takes up would garner attention from the bank.
Once acquired, Standard Bank had to decide how to develop or restore the property. Restoration, although attractive is prohibitively costly, and not necessarily the best idea for the site, especially considering it's proximity to the rapidly growing commercial centre of Johannesburg. Development seemed the only choice. However, due to the age of the site a full photographic record of the buildings and internal streets had to be undertaken.
This is where I became involved. Rather than simply document the site, Standard Bank decided to preserve something of the site for perpetuity as well as make it accesible to the general populace of the city. A glossy coffee table book was decided on and I was one of the photographers who was asked to tender for the project.
In total I spent just over a week, taking in as much time as possible walking and photographing the site. This meant early rises every day in an attempt to catch the best light. On top of this, frequent meetings with Standard Bank project staff and presentations of current work meant that I didn't sleep (I mean real rest) for about 10 days. The real work started after the shoot though, as I waded into thousands of frames to sort out and sift to the images that portrayed the slightly ramshackile character of the dilapidated site, while still showing an energy that has been present since it's inception as South Africa's first truly industrial complex. The long months after the project were spent writing, editing and putting together a layout for the A3 landscape format book.
An incredible opportunity and a vast learning curve have made the 'The Ussher Industrial site' (ISBN - 978-0-620-49460-1) a project that I am inordinately proud of.