Steve Nelson
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“After Operations”

 

I peer into worlds long abandoned. I am curious why I would want to even be here; the air hangs heavy with moisture and the residual scent of chemicals that have saturated the floor I stand on.  I pass from one chamber to another, wandering without a sense of direction.  The labyrinth of these corridors of production gives me an uneasy feeling about my own destiny.  But why do I also have a feeling of belonging? What draws me back to this place?  I emerge into daylight, surrounded by alien forms that stare toward the distant horizon.  What are you seeking?

 

I photograph to probe relationship of memory and loss.  I question the illusion of purpose and function of the post-industrial environment in abandoned spaces I photograph. Void of recent human activities, they are postured in the past, between the familiar and unknown.

 

A time capsule: the Plainwell Paper Mill that is left in a state of decline due to natural forces and salvage operations.  These photographs were taken in the former Plainwell Paper Mill over the course of a year. The images present the industrial architecture, interiors and surroundings from intimate perspectives. Salvage operations, disuse, and the accumulated impact of natural forces have resulted in the site’s current state of abandonment and disorder.

 

The Interloper series reveals intimate perspectives through the intersections of abrupt operational abandonment and the intrusive forces of nature. Probing the recesses of the facilities interior, 15 years after operations ceased, these forgotten spaces evoke in me a quiet sense of entropy, where function and purpose are lost, leaving ambitions of industry in decline.

 

The Angels and Guardians roof top vents and stacks pose as vestiges to their past functions of mediating interior mill spaces with the heavens.  Their weathered armored forms are ennobling and at the same time sinister, as they overlook the surrounding watershed that has been impacted by the mill’s production.  They are uneasy sentinels of the industry, and although their function is no longer needed they remain blindly committed to their purpose.

 

Through these photographs I seek to reveal questions of power, and the value of industry and production in furthering the human condition. What was the value of the production process of this industry with regard to balance of commerce and the resulting environmental impact?  What will the function of these spaces be in the future? Will they ever find a function, or will they continue to decline and ultimately face demolition?  I hope that the questions raised through the photographs contribute the conversation about purpose and function and our perceptions of the past, present, and future conditions.

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