The Lonaconing Silk Mill in Western Maryland is an Aladdin’s Cave of artifacts from a bygone era. The old silk weaving looms and possessions left behind by former workers provide an amazing insight into the life of the mill and the people who worked there. Imagine then the space without any of the artifacts.
I recently photographed the former Everett and Stone Mills in Lawrence, MA, both of which are in the process of being repurposed to provide workspace for small businesses. All of the machinery and other equipment and possessions have been removed and without a brief history lesson it is difficult to imagine the purpose of the buildings and what life must have been like to work here. Lewis Hine gives us some insight through the images he created after photographing mills in the Lawrence area at the turn of the 20th Century to document child labor – his images were subsequently instrumental in the introduction of child labor laws.
Unlike the Lonaconing Silk Mill, the Everett and Stone Mills are essentially empty spaces, which required a different approach to photographing them. While my images of the Lonaconing Silk Mill used artifacts to tell a story of life in the mill, the images I wanted to create of the Everett and Stone Mills would be more about the space itself. Cavernous spaces once filled with the sounds of heavy machinery now quiet, with the only sounds being wind whistling through a broken window or a floor board that creaks when the sun streams in through the cathedral like windows.