Friday, November 29, 2013

September, 1957

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Klotz Throwing Mill closed by a strike officially on Jul 7 1957, though the calendar in the photograph says September. The sweater has hung so long it comes away in the shape of the chair. And the silken thread produced here winds backward through Gilded Age parlors and underthings to New York silk barons who sited their mills here where coal, transportation and labor were all cheap, and the mills were like schoolrooms where the wives and daughters of miners worked in silence to the clattering machines, and when it was time for break, the lights were turned off to save electricity.

for a complete description read Rebecca Trussel's excellent article, "Opening Tut's Tomb."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Corn Light

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: I'm thankful my family and I are all well and that the nation is not at war in Syria and that frequently hostile nations are talking. May the talks lead to a harvest of good will and peace and an end to world hunger.

*click to enlarge

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Plume & Atwood Dam

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  What value could these old mill buildings possibly have? Friday's Waterbury Republican-American carried the news of their demolition.  A link at the end of this note connects to a short slide show of the demolition and some notes about the site's history.

The buildings, in Thomaston, were built before the Civil War by Seth Thomas for his clock company. Seth Thomas was a joiner and a pioneer manufacturer of wooden clocks. Affordable clocks were changing time, and by the 1850s the times demanded clocks of metal. My understanding is that the key building of the new site was a rolling mill to roll brass for Seth Thomas clocks.

The buildings had been decaying for years. One had fallen before I began photographing here, and another fell at the beginning of the summer. The end had been coming for many years.

I'm not privy to the plans for the site where the buildings stood, and there may be a wonderful vision I'll welcome, but I'm mindful of Henry James warning that it takes a lot of history to make a little tradition, and I'm aware that every brick in this old factory carried the measure of a bricklayer's hand. 

Places that connect the region to our Brass Valley past are quickly becoming as scarce  as ironworks in the hill towns. This mill, situated next to the Naugatuck Railroad Museum and with access to a beautiful riverfront and nearly adjacent to Thomaston restaurants, seems to me to be an opportunity sadly missed at the picturesque, historic mill town with the distinctive towers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tones of Gray

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL:  Urban canyon, lacework of silk, tiny spinners ignorant of spindles and photographers cautiously preserving dust.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

No Springs

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: What does silk weigh? Unlike most cloth which is sold by the yard, silk is bought and sold by the pound. The silk worm which secretes the thread also secretes a gummy substance which helps to bind the cocoon in place. The manufacturers who buy the raw silk must remove this paste in order to make silken thread from which fabric will be woven. They paid for the gum discarded, and they viewed the loss in weight as lost profit.  In order to recoup that loss, manufacturers took to soaking the raw silk in metallic salts of tin, iron, or lead. These readily bonded with the silk and returned the lost weight and sometimes more.  However, the salts also caused the silk to wear badly and become brittle in time. 

Even without silk manufacturers weighting their product, the weight of silk changes significantly with humidity so product weight was always somewhat subjective. Of course, in a business based upon the weight of the product, it's not a surprise to find a precision scale such as this just outside Shipping & Receiving to assure weights are accurate and profits are maximized.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In the Shipping Dept. Dreaming of Vermeer

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The painter methodically fills empty space with shapes and colors to touch truths truer than facts. The poet strings his poem with choice words, one at a time until it is filled with music that sings beyond language. The dancer moves, fills the stage with gesture and the body's song; muscles arch, stretch or spiral like a star. Arms, legs, torsos saturate the air with a primal beat. 

The photographer doesn't fill anything, he plucks with his lens shards of light and shadows cast, and he fixes them with a click.  It's a short time in which to fill eternity.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Yarn


56 yeara after the Silk Mill Closed

Yellowing in yellow light,
A dress never made,
A wedding awry,
Spinning its yarn,

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Idle Bobbins at the Silk Mill


Bobbins bundled in barrels and stacked in boxes
As we search for the thread.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: Climb to the top of the grand stairs of Failinger's Hotel Gunter, and you'll find behind crystal doors a glittering feast is always set, and along the wall beside the Christmas tree, the eyes of hundreds of dolls, marionettes, mannequins, fantoccini, and strange animals, creatures and even, perhaps, spirits of the hotel's past watch for the festivities to begin though it was October, and, except for the clicking of our shutters, silence prevailed.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Frostburg Noir

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: From the balconies on the third and fourth floors of the Hotel Gunter there's a good view up and down Frostburg's Main Street. It was the National Road over which prisoners were frequently transported, and at the back of the men's room in the basement of the hotel, there are still two prison cells where prisoners were locked up overnight while accompanying marshals slept upstairs. 

The Hotel Gunter opened originally in 1897 as the Hotel Gladstone, a place for businessmen to stop and get big city service from bell hops in brown uniforms. It was the biggest place in town with 100 rooms. The grandeur and lace of its lobby lent an air of super-respectability to business conducted there; shoeshine boys waited and barbers patiently stropped gleaming razors, should a businessman need the civilizing influence of hot towels, a shave and a bit of tart lotion before displaying wears in the hotel's "sample rooms."  

When the business failed and was sold in 1903, William Gunter, the new owner, made the bar room sing steamily with mahogany and marble and brass, and he added a tin sealing painted pea-green and a room in the basement for cock-fighting. During prohibition, they say, the noise and commotion at the front of the building was just enough distraction that liquor could be brought in safely at the back. In 1925 Gladstone officially became Gunter.

The passageways that wind through the basement are a trip through time. They are a museum of culture and technology of the industrial age. There's everything from a washing machine to a stuffed bear. The winding passages are crossed by rails that carried cartloads of coal to heat the hotel's 100 rooms, and around a bend and down a ramp one finds the coal cart looking as if it were heading into a mine shaft. Beside it are miner's lanterns, picks and other tools. As I recall, the cock fighting ring was nearby.

The stair flows from the second floor into the center of the lobby of the fully restored Failinger's Hotel Gunter ( It is usually decked in flowers and sometimes in garlands, and it spirals past high-back, cushioned chairs and lace and an organ and down into the basement passages, and as I was spun, I sometimes forgot when I was from, but each time I returned to my room a brass plaque on the door helped me find my own century. It told me that Roy Clark had slept there on Aug. 4, 1990; it made me feel as if I ought to look under the bed, but the room and hotel were a pleasure to stay in and a trip in themselves whatever century they were in.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dan's Rock Oscillations



Wood warps after death
Other motion ceases
The oscillating spirit becomes the forest

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dan's Rock

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: We arrived in Frostburg, Maryland, late Friday afternoon after a full day of driving. Of those so far gathered, I was the only one interested in waking early, and I was out before seven prowling for photographs. I saw the full moon set and drove the road past Lonaconing, looking for side roads to explore as the sun rose. I  followed many narrow valleys where houses clung to steep slopes and the banks of rushing streams. Some were immobilized mobile homes and some had turnings and gingerbread that suggested another age and more steady times. Few had seen a coat of paint recently. The roads wound into the valleys like mine shafts into veins of coal, and all eventually gave out without ever climbing, though one led me to a hilltop cemetery just as the last hope of sunlight was being muffled under clouds. I must have passed over a hundred small bridges as roads crossed and recrossed rushing brooks. Then, on the way home, I saw a sign: "To Dan's Rock Overlook." I had just enough time, perhaps, before I was to meet my friends at 10.

The road led unpromisingly toward a cluster of homes before pointing me left so that by the time I moved beyond the homes I wasn't sure if I was still on the road to Dan's Rock Overlook, but the road kept climbing.  I passed houses and scrub land and some sort of large tank, and the road went on much further than I expected without a sign of getting ragged, and it kept climbing, and it was still paved and finally reached a small parking area. To one side were thin woods and a valley beyond.  On the other a large outcropping of rock blocked my view. The rock had been almost entirely covered with people's names and declarations of young love in bright colors sprayed from aerosol cans. The outcrop was topped with numerous telecommunications towers, and I guessed I was nearly on top of something. I later counted sixteen towers in all. Stairs had been cut into the rock outcropping. I remembered, this was a region where men were used to cutting into rock, but the steps were crudely cut, strictly an amateur affair. 

The steps led uncomfortably up the rocks to a metal structure, metal stairs and a bridge that eventually surmounted the rock and led to two lookout platforms and the scene recorded in my image. The name, "Dan's Rock," had been welded into the structure. I'd finally gotten out of the valley. Messages continued covering every rock surface  even at the top, and it was clear that youths squirming in their immortality had risked everything to leave unrecognizable dabs of paint in dangerously inaccessible locations.

I returned to town and my friends, and after breakfast we all visited Dan's Rock for our morning shoot.  We were due at the silk mill at one.