Monday, June 22, 2015

Farrel Cathedral

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: There’s just no better word to describe the grandeur of this work shed, no fitter term to describe it’s place in the diocese of Farrel buildings or the orbit of Brass Valley. It feels no less regal for the degradation the building suffers. I first came here in 2011 knowing little of it’s history, but a man hired to clean up and inventory let me explore and shoot then, a permission later rescinded by order of his boss. 

Even then, I knew that the passage from the sand elevator over the rail line must end somewhere in these buildings at the foundry. I had no real idea of where or what the foundry was or why they needed sand. However, my instincts led me part way down this nave to a pace where a transept seemed to cross. My first surprise was when I climbed a half flight of stairs into that transept and found myself looking down through a window on sheds below as vast as this cathedral above.

I had no more than four or five hours to shoot then before I was exiled. The photo record of that first visit caught the noble spaces warehousing industrial electronic components packed so tightly that getting around was a maze for a mouse, but I found my way into grand and mouse-sized spaces, and it was not until I finally got back inside in 2014 that I could place all my pictures and discover how much I had missed.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Farrel Foundry: Imperial Basilica

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Farrel Works feels like a giant cathedral. Or rather it is a half dozen giant cathedrals set side by side, some end to end. Stand anywhere, and the space you are in is a basilica echoed by side aisles on one side or both and reverberating on into shadow. Trusses soar like tracery and end either in stained and broken glass skylights, or along rusted stair rails with checkerboard shadows and catwalks between ducts and stacks into darkness. Suites of chambers are apparently carved inside of walls between buildings and sometimes into bedrock. Beneath, the foundry is tunneled with catacombs that wind past open wells where molds were set for casting. One needs a flashlight to find the way from well to well and out to air and sunlight. There are places, beyond locked doors and across catwalks too frail for cats, that may never reveal their secrets. 

Almon Farrel, son of a Waterbury millwright, built Ansonia and pioneered in the manufacturing the tools used for large scale manufacturing. This was the foundry that produced large machinery for making paper and rubber and for grinding sugar cane. Of all spaces of Farrel Works, none is as grand and exalted as the nave of Farrel Foundry. Is it Connecticut’s greatest surviving cathedral of industry? It deserves the title: Imperial Basilica. Whether there is anything of it that can be preserved other than memories, I have no idea.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cliff Walkers

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Cliff walkers, heads in the clouds, suspended on time, bearers of the seeded fruit.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Confluence (Paper Mill, Lyons Falls)

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: When my journal was side tracked and broke off a week and a half ago, I was in the midst of telling about the ancient Black River Canal, now a dark mucky groove, lined crisply with massive rocks, that cleaves the earth’s crust with canal-lock stairways beneath a forest canopy lost to time. (

Lyons Falls, New York is at the top of the stairway, at the confluence of the Black River and the Moose River, where there is a beautiful waterfall and a long dam. It was famous once for its "triple bridge that joined three shores with a junction over the water. Lyons Falls was a paper mill town whose vitality depended on the lumberman upstream and the seasonal supply of new logs that flowed on the river, and the dangerous work on the river was a sign of the town’s spunk. 

The once thriving mill has become a wreck and a hazard and a constant reminder to a community on the brink, of a life that is gone. I arrived even as a crew of three, with cranes that wielded jack-hammers, chipped at a section of brick structure, as the rivers at this confluence idled and flowed.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Back to the River: Ghost Road

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: They called it "Castle Bridge,” though I have no idea why, but at one time I suspect it was one of few landmarks along the road through the long, wooded narrows of the Naugatuck Valley between Torrington and Thomaston. It was just below Campville, where in 1841 Jebez Camp built his sawmill, when the valley road was all dirt. 

Today it is a ghost road, pavement appearing first where it begins to bank and rise toward stranded concrete piers that once carried it across a rocky cleft and rushing Naugatuck waters. The span is long gone. Vanished. The banked road stops before the piers. One must climb steeply up to the long, black, level pad of pavement, crust cracked and sprouting forest. “One two, buckle my shoe… nine ten, start again."

Monday, June 1, 2015

Since 1825 and Ready for 2015

PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL:  Between 1905 and 1918 old Erie Canal and offshoot canals of the system, with their towpaths and mules were re-engineered into the Erie Canal System for motorized freight barges. It remains a triumph of Jules Verne era engineering. Nothing is too big to be magnificently detailed and spit-shined. Tubes, meters, valves, insignias of brass - even the fuses have heavy caps that shine like gold. There are watch-like mechanisms of levers and gears, and escape valves that fly open by centrifugal force when they spin too quickly, and all still as a pin in a little windowed house, like a museum display.

Even today each lock is kept polished and painted by a lock master and crew who greeted us on our arrival. They work with military precision and compete much as local volunteer fire departments do to maintain the discipline of their work. Even if the canal system is no longer essential to commercial traffic it is an integral part of flood control throughout the Mohawk Valley.