While checking my Facebook feed today, I noticed Messy Nessy Chic posted some beautiful photographs taken by photographer/artist Christoper Payne http://www.messynessychic.com/2016/01/13/unexpected-beauty-hiding-inside-americas-last-fabric-factories/ which capture several mills that still operate in the United States.
“In this era of service jobs and office work, most of us have never been inside a factory. Several decades of overseas competition, unequal trade policies, and a flood of cheap imports have decimated American factories. Since 1990, job losses in apparel and textiles have been greater than those in any other type of manufacturing, and today we have little idea where, or how, the shirt on our back is made.
In 2010, I discovered an old yarn mill in Maine that reminded me of the state hospital workshops I had photographed for my book, Asylum. While those places had long been abandoned, this mill was fully operational, a scene from the past miraculously coexisting with the present. I returned to the mill several times, and from conversations with employees, learned of other mills in the Northeast, many still functioning as they had for decades, using vintage equipment now prized for producing the “genuine article”.
In 2013, I toured several mills in the Carolinas, where the majority of textile production eventually migrated from New England, because the labor was cheaper. The mills are vast and mostly automated, and have survived by adapting technologically to the global marketplace. Though they bear little resemblance to their Northern forbearers, they are bound by a common history and are economically dependent on each other. By the time a finished fabric reaches the customer, it has passed through many factories, each a crucial link in the chain of production.
Over the past five years, I have gained access to an industry that continues to thrive, albeit on a much smaller scale, and for the most part, out of public view. With my photographs I aim to show how this iconic symbol of American manufacturing has changed and what its future may hold. I also wish to pay tribute to the undervalued segment of Americans who work in this sector. They are a cross section of young and old, skilled and unskilled, recent immigrants, and veteran employees, some of whom have spent their entire lives in a single factory. Together, they share a quiet pride and dignity, and are proof that manual labor and craftsmanship still have value in today’s economy.”
Here is one of my favorite photographs taken by Christopher Payne. http://www.chrispaynephoto.com/textiles1/3t84aycz3g450y0o6wyk7txxp907mb