Gallery: When There Was Steel

When There Was Steel

This series, under the title of AfterImage: Mill Life Remembered, was exhibited at the Heinz Regional History Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute, in Pittsburgh, PA from September 2005 to May 2006.

The images were taken over a three-month period in the fall of 1977, part of a grant from LightWorks, University of Syracuse, to photograph the mill towns north of Pittsburgh along the Ohio and Beaver Rivers.  At the time I came back to photograph the region, 20 years after I had moved away, the mills were still operating if not thriving, and the mill towns were grinding along pretty much as they had for a 100 years. No one knew that within a decade the mills would be closed and their buildings leveled, the towns would be struggling to survive, and most of the people would move away. A way of life gone, like smoke.

The photographs are 11” x 14” carbon-pigment images, printed on 13” x 17” archival Somerset Velvet unenhanced watercolor paper. The experience of coming back to the region after more than 20 years, as well as the adventures of trying to photograph in these tough mill towns, resulted in 21 sections of text to accompany the photographs. Portions of the text were written and researched as part of a grant from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts.