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“The best way out is always through.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Document the Industrial Past

While I was out testing my Nikon D90 last week I ended up in a small Connecticut mill town about 10 miles from my home. There was a time when these mill towns represented the source of wealth in New England and they employed just about everyone. Today, of course, most of the mills have been turned into condos or shopping centers--or just torn down completely. But for photographers, the urban-industrial fragments that remain are not only haunting reminders of another time, but brimming with interesting photographic possibilities.

I've seen this old railroad trestle thousands of times (and even foolishly walked on it to get shots a few times--and it's still in use), but I never took any serious photos of it--partly because it was always blocked by abandoned factories and mills. Today there is a beautiful park along the river and the bridge seems like a hulking steel and rust dinosaur compared to the modern sidewalks and decorative benches (look through the bridge and you can see the split-rail fencing on of a walking path). The contrast between the pretty spring trees, the lines of the walking path and the rusted old bridge really struck me, so I pulled out my tripod and spent an hour shooting detail shots of the beautiful iron patterns. I'm sure that one day they'll replace this bridge with something more modern and attractive, but when that day comes, at least I'll have some reminders of the way it was.

If you live near an aging city or mill town, take some time to explore the dying embers of industry. After all, your grandparents may have played a part in creating that world. If you're looking for some inspiration to guide you, check out the wonderful works of David Plowden, for my money the best American landscape photographer.

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