Monday, April 25, 2011

Break Time

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: What do I think about as I walk hallways in these old mills? What is the flavor of their melancholy? They are wistful only in retrospect, and it's hard to reflect without remembering dark chapters in the struggles of labor in America. However, the political lens is shallow and one-dimensional, and many company towns tell different stories. Drive the streets and look at the number and quality of the houses. They suggest a measure of the lives lived there.

Whether one finds oppression or fair dealing, these brick, mill buildings were built to last, and the companies that built them were invested there. Decisions made there were rooted there; good will or ill will had nowhere else to go, and the bargains struck, ordered relationships and lives and stamped their imprint on every enterprise. Local laws and governments were structured by that imprint, schools were run by the patterns of the mill, and the day was regulated by the factory whistle and the punch clock. Wiki tells us that the first punch clock was invented in 1888, by William Bundy, a jeweler in Auburn, NY. Was it a milestone in our relationship with time?

Break time is over, and the hum is long gone. Though we live in a different world today, to what extent do we still live inside these old walls. Or are there new walls as invisible and ubiquitous as the World Wide Web rising up and shimmering faintly across newly formatted terabytes.