•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ansonia Waterfront




PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  There is no more iconic sight in Ansonia than these filters, ducts and chimneys - high order industrial sculpture. If these buildings were gone, what would we know of the years when the river ran in colors, and downwind was bad wind? Inside this shed is the soot-caked cathedral where I've photographed Mike and Willy pouring hot copper into giant billets for the extruder upstream. Once 41 furnaces rumbled there. Now there is one.

The flood waters of 1955 washed over the sewage of a dead river, a balm for its agonies and everywhere else devastation. The days of Brass Valley were waning.  Today, the river has been brought back to life, but here it is a dead zone out of reach.  There is hardly a place anywhere around where one can reach the banks. Safely protected behind the flood-walls, filters and ducts, pipes and tanks, stacks and chimneys cling to the old foundry like barnicles. They are a rare surviving vestige of our smokestack past and a monument to its genius.

There is a constant tension in a photo project such as this between photographing to document, which is not this blog's aim, and photographing to express. Of course documentary photography must often be very expressive, but on this blog the expression precedes the subject. The difference is between trying to portray the "decaying factory," or alternately, trying to portray "factory decay," or even to make the viewer feel in the factory decay, his own cold mortality

Put this entry under the heading, "Document," while I consider how to scale the chimneys.


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