Rise and Fall

Artist’s name 

Mike Guess

Preview date 

4th November 2022 from 5 – 7pm  

Opening dates 

4th November – 3rd December 2022

Viewing time 

Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 4.30pm 

Short Overview 

Saabat Gallery seeks to explore humanity’s relationship with the Industrial History of Teesside…. landscapes between the “rise and fall”, through the experiences and journey of a former steelwork engineer and photographer Michael Guess.

Michael was born in 1963 in Middlesbrough, grew up on the Netherfield’s estate, started at BSC 1979 as an apprentice electrician. Ending up as an electrical engineer on the Concast Plant, at present he still works onsite as a HV engineer.


‘Rise and Fall’ is a series of photographs which show the experiences of an unsettled community.
Mr. Guess’s works draw poignantly and always unapologetically upon his upbringing and life in the industrial zone of the North of England….and within Teesside.

This work has provided unseen places with an empirical analysis of the role of politics, alongside photographs which capture everyday life and the realities of de-industrialisation, the demolition of historic buildings and the loss of communities within living memory.

This vast industrial framework has sustained a crisis in a continuation of conflicts in Teesside, and the North East from the Industrial Revolution to the present day.

Mr. Guess said “In 2010 we received the news that Teesside Steelworks would be closing and mothballed. This would be an end to a great history of iron and steelmaking on Teesside and I just could let that be it, so started a recording of the final years.
With SSI buying the Teesside site, it seemed like the impossible dream had come true. I was then in a position to record the restarting of the steel plant that I had a part in mothballing along with all the hopes for the future in photographs.
This all again turned sour with the liquidation of SSI and I was again in position to photograph this sad and very final end”.


Security factors for labourers and the fragility of politics, and corruption that led to demise of many industries and bring a new insecurity and instability within the economy and culture in the area, and new landscapes are the landscapes of ownership and financial power, nevertheless central to the quality of our experience and lives.

Michael’s memories were preserved through photographic images of the North East, this representational legacy presents a nostalgic view of working-class life and a celebration of the industries native to the North of England, such as furnaces, coal mining and shipbuilding among others.

This tradition found prominence in the recent past through the work of local painter David Watson and photographer Ian Macdonald, both portraying and capturing extraordinary images from within the working blast furnaces, interlaced with portraits of the men who worked there, a testament to the passions for creating images of people within their working environment.

Michael’s unparalleled access to gathering this unseen form between time and placeless places, “memories”, which offer a unique record of this humanity’s crisis, the sense of hard work, pride, and nobility of spirit…. captured with a large format plate camera in studies of the workers.

Photography has always concerned itself with representation, with social realism, as a part of its ontological destiny, its public face and usage is perhaps better understood by most that of its comparatively recent existence within a fine art, gallery context.

It is perhaps a part of a necessary re-labelling and investigation as we move into this post – industrial age.


Curator:  Azad Karim Mohammed …………………. November 2022


83 Normanby Road
South Bank
Redcar & Cleveland
North Yorkshire
+44 7507352003

Open Hours

Tuesday – Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sunday & Monday: Closed
Holidays: Closed