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Hartlepool, England

Steetley Magnesite

Derelict chemical plant on the North Sea is a beautiful industrial ruin. 

Photogenic usually implies beauty: a picturesque landscape, a majestic sunset, or a gorgeous smile. In this case it refers to a decaying chemical plant that has sat abandoned for more than five years.

The Steetley Magnesite was opened just before the outbreak of World War II to create magnesium. Business boomed through the 1960s but eventually waned and the site changed hands a number of times, underwent corporate takeover, and eventually declared bankruptcy. At the outset of the 21st century, the chemical plant was all but abandoned and the industrial wreckage created by years of industry was all that remained.

However, despite the derelict factory and industrial waste-scape, the area has become home to two unusual species: nesting sea birds and urban explorers. In its near alien landscape, the industrial remains have become a type of photographic perfection and a major destination for explorers and urban photographers across the U.K.

Artists have morphed these industrial remains into a wild and attractive dream world through their lenses, repurposing the relic of an older industrial age into a landscape that could just as well be the distant future as the recent past. Despite attempts to demolish the site and put up homes, the nesting birds have saved the day, their habitats too fragile to continue with the destruction of the plant.

Update September 2017: A housing estate has been built on the former site, and the tanks and equipment are now gone. Only the old pier remains on the beach.