Photographing the Past While Remembering Mine
I recently attended a workshop led by one of the master photographers of abandoned places, Matthew Christopher, at the old Scranton Lace Company in Pennsylvania. The Scranton Lace Company was established in the 1890’s and remained in business until 2003. It is a massive, once thriving, complex of factory buildings that are now in various states of decay.
When we walked into the old buildings, I was thrown back into my own past. My father owned a machine shop in a complex of old industrial buildings. My Dad’s company only used a small portion of the property and my brothers and I would explore the vast array of empty buildings. They were big and made strange noises from wind and deterioration. There was also a lot of strange looking old machinery strewn about. All of this added up to one scary and fascinating place for a kid to hang out. Those old memories, fears, and curiosities came flooding back to me when we walked into the Scranton Lace Company.
This seemed to be a popular place for our group to photograph because of the reflections from the pooling water on the floor. I was trying to put my own spin on it when I noticed the ripples from the water dripping through the ceiling. Those ripples show this place continues to deteriorate.
Angles and Lines
While exploring the Scranton Lace Company buildings, I was very drawn to the challenge of finding interesting angles and lines in mostly large, rectangular spaces. The light from a bright sunny day coming through the windows also made for an interesting juxtaposition of bright light and dark shadows.
The Rhythm of Debris
In some of the rooms there were different kinds of debris from the business of making lace. I found the patterns and lines they formed to be fascinating and wanted to preserve, in an artistic way, the piles of junk that were once useful items.
This large loom is the last one of 12 used to make the lace. The loom was made in England and might be the last of its type in the United States.
This complex is nothing but a series of large open rooms. Some were quite unique in their deterioration.
The Power Plant
This power plant is at the far end of the Scranton Lace Company complex. I always find it interesting how nature eventually reclaims what humans build.
The Corporate Office
When walking around the corporate offices I wanted to make a statement about the decline of a business. I found some old reports from the 1960’s and 70’s and placed them in the photograph. These reports represented a different time for this office. So what happened to turn a thriving enterprise into a ruin?
Scranton Lace Company by iPhone
I explored this place with an iPhone as well as my big camera. There were some things that just seemed better photographed with the phone.
The Scranton Lace Company was the first industrial site I have photographed since I started seeking out old and abandoned places as subjects. It was amazing how my own industrial past came back to me in these similar old spaces.
Postscript: We were told at the beginning of the workshop that this will be one of the last workshops held here because most of the buildings are slated to be torn down in the Fall of this year. Time marches on.