Thursday, June 26, 2014

Remembering the Annealer

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: If the brass mill were a bestiary, the annealer would be some armor plated creature that hunches like a rock when enemies hover; it was an organism that lived at a tempo almost too slow for human observation. At one end of the annealer there was usually tube waiting on the rack to be rolled onto the conveyor. It might sit for twenty minutes, or it might sit for hours. Inevitably, when my back was turned, and I was photographing something else, the waiting tube was rolled, and the rare human interaction of man and beast was missed.  

The conveyor moved rows of tube through a long heated chamber - slowly the way a clock’s minute hand moves, too slow for observation. Eventually rows of tubes emerged slowly on the other side. Sometimes long wisps of steam rose from the ends of the tubes as they entered and exited the annealer. The vigor and the beauty of the steam varied with the diameter of the tube, the temperature of the shop, and elements beyond my ken, but I often tried to get human events and steam into the same image, but all the stars were never quite in alignment then. This shot with José is as close as I came.

The annealer heated tube that had been stressed and stretched as it was worked on the draw benches. Heat relaxed the crystal structure of the metal to prevent pinholes from developing. I always found it to be a photogenic tangle of tubes and pipes and wires and ducts, and even on occasion tried to photograph inside of it as it ran.