PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: I’m drawn to the mottled, crisp surfaces, the planes of light and leading geometries and shadowed recesses in these piles of dies now lying about the extrusion mill. I’m not sure I can say much more about why, but I react to them as I do to the mannequins at the opera house, as pure form. These are too heavy to move much and too dirty, so I move about trying to fit my rectangle around them. It’s no different than shooting a landscape. Occasionally I’ll mutter, “That’s it!” And most often I won’t know why, but sometimes my eye will.
Of course there are many excellent photographers with good reasons who will tall me, “No, not there. Here!” …and they will be right. And my irksome brain will be worrying me, “Isn’t it too fussy in that notch on the top edge, and the top left corner feels weak. Worst of all, the exercise is of no consequence and of little if any importance to anyone but me. However, that quite misses the point. Looking again later I think I know a bit about why this feels right while many other similar shots don’t work at all.
There are thousands of these dies, and they have been piling up at the old extrusion mill for more than a century. They were everywhere in metal shelves between the benches and in clusters and clearings wherever there was room. Most range in size from a stack of salad plates to a stack of generous platters, though some are as large a car tire, and all are solid steel and heavy. They fit the four draw benches and the expansion bench that formed the basis of the original tube mill that was probably here in the 1890s. Now they have been carefully piled into wire cages to accompany the benches to Mexico, and it’s feeling spacious between the benches.
The dies fit various machines similar to the one shown operating in a recently posted photo: http://rothphotos.blogspot.com/2014/07/bench-23.html
You can see some as they sat in the working mill in these photos: