Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Preparing the Charge, No.2




PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Photographing fire has always seemed to me a tricky thing to do and rarely fully satisfactory. Photographing it here, where soot-coated walls suck up all ambient light, gave me special difficulty. I'm at ISO 1600, f/1.8 and a shutter speed of 1/60. Without further processing in Photoshop the fire is blown out, and everywhere else details are buried in shadow. Willy was mostly in motion, so I set my focus point to the scrap, copper tubes. This is another of the images taken the first time I witnessed the charging of the furnace. Here he is heating the initial charge to a precise temperature. The second time I saw the charge, I arrived too late to catch this part.

Today I went back, hoping to catch the ritual blaze again, but the best guess now is that the initial charge of the furnace will be tomorrow or Saturday when I can't be there. No matter.  I spent  three hours in the powerhouse. 

I believe I have now done serious shoots in every important interior space of photographic interest that I've been able to find at both the Waterbury and Ansonia campuses. How many buildings is that? Most of these spaces are unused. Some are abandoned, but I've posted few photos from them.  I'm not sure why I reached the powerhouse last. It is rich with potential still. Shooting there makes me think that I have arrived at a milestone where I can begin to assess the scope of what I'm about and plan a bit on how to continue and what the end production might be.  Each of the abandoned spaces will be a photographic adventure in light.  

Today, just as I was leaving the powerhouse, the low, winter sun came around to the front of the building and shines through the tall front windows, and how it shines across a wall of gauges and knobs and across large engines that cast monster shadows in one of the two three-story spaces in the building.  I know I also need a dark, overcast day to shoot the adjacent, three-story machine room beside where steam boilers used to hiss and roar.  I need to think about each space in relation to seasons and sunlight.  I need to focus on exteriors. I need to talk to Wally who knows some of the history and how everything works. It's time to plan.



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