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: April 2012
Demolition crews are now at work razing the entire site to the ground with the work scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. The site is now off limits to the public but there is still limited viewing access from the public footpaths. The chimney stack, itself visible from virtually anywhere on the Durham coastline, is destined for controlled demolition at some time in the summer. Current rumour says it will take place when the Olympic Torch makes its journey through Hartlepool, although no firm decision has been taken as to the actual date.