Galen Shutterbugs retrace footsteps of Wolfgang Sievers at Bruck Mills

Photograph taken by Wolfgang Sievers inside Bruck Mill, of a worker amongst the factory machinery. Print from negatives Sievers made in 1954.

PhotoTrip360 years after the Australian photographer Wolfgang Sievers (1913-2007) photographed Bruck Mills in Wangaratta, the Galen College Year 10 photography students retraced his steps through the same factory to see the same machines still in operation.

Australian Textiles Mills displayed 50 photographs by Wolfgang Sievers for the Year 10 tour, Makayla Briena had a chance to see her great grand father or grand father in the photographs, as they had both worked at Bruck Mills.

Wolfgang Sievers emigrated from Germany in 1930 because of the impending war in Europe. The factory where the Australian Textile Mills stands now was a factory set up by the Australian Government to make aluminium for the Second World War. When the war finished in 1945 it was transformed into the textile factory by a Canadian company Bruck Mills.

When Sievers photographed the factory in 1954 there were over a 1000 workers. He captured the well-dressed workers operating the enormous machines, which were part of the industrial revolution, making mass produced fabrics for the popular fashion scene in Melbourne.

The international market has pressured Australian Textile Mills to down size. Some machines have been decommissioned and its biggest contract is making uniform fabric for the Australian army. It seems after 70 years of making fashion fabrics it has returned to manufacturing for the Australian Army.

It has much fewer workers, “around 163” says student Jack James. One worker, Gavin Gardner (pictured below) who student Nicholas Richards photographed outside, had just announced his retirement after 48 and a half years.

Amber Ferraro captured brilliant photographs of today’s workers with a digital SLR camera in colour, something Wolfgang Sievers couldn’t do till later in his life. Other students used 35 mm black and white film cameras much like what Sievers used. These films will be developed back at school and enlarged in the darkroom.

Written by Andrew Sinclair