America Standard, December 26th, 3:15 PM.
It has been a little over a month since I was last here; the 11th anniversary of Standard’s shutdown has silently come and gone and little has changed. It is warm today and, although I feel feverish, I know that these sunny Ohio days are rarest in December. My father accompanies me once more, always a football field ahead running his fingers through the rubble. Last month’s visit was quick; I was overwhelmed by the space, uneasy and on edge. This month I knew what to expect and so I sat with my surroundings, carefully observing the details I had overlooked here before.
It is amazing how 11 years without human intervention can change a landscape. Still, I am filled with overwhelming dread at the resemblance to a place once riddled with war. It is golden hour and I incessantly comment on how lovely the light is. This is the photographers inner turmoil, how a scarred landscape can transform into something beautiful when bathed in golden light. I sit crosslegged on busted up concrete that was once the factory floor, picking burs off of my leggings and marveling at the site’s transformation. This place once bustled with life, a rich history well over 100 years old. Suddenly, I have become the next chapter, the facilitator of remembrance and respect. This place and its employees shaped nearly every aspect of their community. They are still here, connected by a space that at one point felt certain, stable and steadfast. It is amazing how quickly (with no warning) all of those characteristics can change.
My cousin Julie made a comment in regards to this work that pinpoints my interest in Standard far better than I have yet been able to do:
“I was raised by a Potter and was married to one when they closed in 2007. Thankfully my husband was able to go to nursing school. Many of the younger ones were able to take advantage of retraining programs as part of the NAFTA deal. Many became nurses or truck drivers. The older ones took what retirement they could. It was the guys in that middle age bracket like your Dad that really got hurt. Too young to retire too old to start over.“
There is a generation of men and woman (mostly in the Rust Belt) who have become professionally obsolete due to factory shutdowns dating all the way back to the shutdown of the steel mill in Youngstown, Ohio, on September 9th, 1977, and amplifying with 2007’s housing market crash. These are the people who’s stories I am most interested in telling. For more information on the work I am tentatively calling Our American Standard, visit HERE.
Below are the first batch of images from my second trip to Standard, more to come.