Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Last Machine: Cutting the Bottle

Going on NOW!
"Brazen Grit: Images of Brass Valley"
photographs of Emery Roth

through January 7 (check library hours)
at Minor Public Library, Roxbury, CT
(just off rt.67)

slide talk: “Finding Brass Valley, a Place in Time that Has Almost Vanished”

Dec. 10 @ 1 PM Minor Public Library, Roxbury, CT

“The Bottle,” so named on the parts list, is the thick-walled hydraulic cylinder into which the piston fits. The oil injected into this container exerts its immense force on every inch of the piston head to move it. It exerts an equal force on every square inch of the bottle’s wall which must not move. The bottle anchors the system. Nor is it meant to be removed, and it will take Ben and Art many days to chop it into pieces they can lift and transport.

A quick review of my photo shoots shows it took from the mid-July until nearly the end of September for Art and Ben to get the half-million pounds of metal that was Brass Valley’s last machine chopped and out. Two months to remove just the machine, not counting time to remove the conveyor beds, ovens, control consoles and to drop to the floor the great traveling cranes that spanned and traversed the factory aisles and then to cut the cranes apart and down the rails. We photographed Ben and Art attacking the cranes in December of 2015, and they had already been at it awhile. 

So much effort to remove the last machine and its component parts! How long did it take to install it and put it in operation? 

Until last month, I didn’t even know when it had been installed. At the opening of my Roxbury Library photo exhibit an engineer who had worked there remembered it all. I asked when it was put in operation, and he stopped to reflect and calculate and said with certainty, “1979.” Before I could question him on the difficulty of installation, he began describing to me the difficulty of bringing the trucks through town and the gate at the top of the brass mill and down the historic road that crosses through the mill property from Liberty Street to the River. I had surmised it had been brought in by rail.

However, the difficulties were ahead. It required two years spent adjusting, and learning and fine tuning its production to make a reliable product. It was the machine to save the industry. It was the last major piece of heavy machinery installed in Brass Valley, and the last to be removed.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Brazen Grit

Share refreshments at the opening of 
Brazen Grit: Images of Brass Valley
an exhibition of photographs by Emery Roth

November 12, 2016 from 2 PM to 4 PM @ Minor Library, Roxbury, CT
Exhibition runs Nov. 12 thru Jan. 7

Brazen Grit: Images of Brass Valley

We are Makers. After our time in the trees, our human minds freed our dexterous hands to do impossible things. Making stuff, handiwork, is in our DNA. At least it’s in mine, which is maybe why it feels like death when a manufacturing region vanishes and a culture of innovation is hollowed out. The earliest photographs in this exhibit were made in 2011 when my colleague and I were invited to photograph men using ancient machinery in the last brass mills in Brass Valley. The mills ceased operation in 2013, and I made the most recent images in this exhibit this summer and fall, as the last mills were being picked and detoxified prior to demolition. For six years Ive sought to understand these mills and the men who ran them and those who demolish them. These photographs are the stories the men and the mills have given me.

They called the steep valley of Connecticut’s Naugatuck River "Brass Valley,” because from the time the world began running on steam and bearings, trolleys and soot, the Naugatuck Valley came to be where most of the world’s brass manufacturing happened. Beginning with the iron industry in the Northwest Hills, Connecticut became known for its metalworking and its machine innovations. New Britain was known as “Hardware City.” Meriden was the “Silver City.” Southington was the “Bell City.” But brass had a whole valley. From Bridgeport to Winsted was where brass was made and made into stuff from clips to clocks to the fittings for industry and the weapons of war. I was privileged to witness and photograph the final chapter in the story of Brass Valley.