Friday, December 27, 2013

Industrial Landscapes of Hamilton, ON

I've recently become interested in capturing the feel of Hamilton's industrial landscapes through images. There's just something about these toxic spaces; equal parts horrendous and alluring. In today's post, I offer some ground-level photography, taken from nearby roads and sidewalks.No trespassing was involved in the taking of these photos, or in exploring this area. Enjoy :)

West part of the industrial sector, north of the downtown core.

Here's the same pair of skin-tone hemispheres I photographed from Carroll's Bay, but seen close up. To quote Seinfeld, "they're real and they're spectacular."

In 2010, the Lakeport Brewing Company shut down its Hamilton location, and moved its production to London, Ontario. Cold beer, anyone?

Although it's only been vacant for three years, you can almost hear the building weep.

I wonder what's on tap.

"Bunge is an agribusiness and food ingredient company dedicated to improving the global food supply chain."

No idea as to how they're fulfilling their human mandate, but they certainly seem to have birds covered. A huge flock of pigeons sits above the huge vats, waiting for industrial hand-outs.

A bird of prey (a hawk?) carries a doomed pigeon past the mustard-yellow, faded fa├žade of the vacant structure.

Retreating in response, the cloud of pigeons relocates to another part of the block. (See top left corner of photograph)

They shortly land around a rusty railroad car full of wheat product. Their frustration is palpable. (Pigeons not shown)

Speaking of palpable, it's worth mentioning that the air around this whole area had a smell that was always shifting, elusive in nature, but unvarying in its abrasiveness. At the end of the day, I felt dizzy and nauseated.

A large pile of something sits dangerously close to water. Environment Canada has flagged this whole zone as an Area of Concern. It's worth noting that the EC chose to represent this area with a photo of its one park. Cute, guys.

The whole block feels like a dirty secret. It was quite intimidating to photograph, though what I was doing was perfectly legal, given that I was on public streets and sidewalks at all times. This particular area smelled almost exactly like freshly-made tortillas. The thought of tortillas made me hungry, but the industrial smell made my stomach uneasy.

Being in this area felt like coming across a shattered dream. At the turn of the century, Hamilton was a city with beautiful buildings. Ambitious to develop, it embarked on an industrial course that would be its own undoing. Like someone realizing their mistakes too late, there was simply no return, only a slow and arduous decay into obsolescence.

What I love about these buildings is that they're not designed to be pretty. They're designed for efficiency, ease of repairability, endurance, and so on. And yet, there are always elements of aesthetic design which have to be deliberated and chosen. Gotta love those colours.

A set of clustered buildings displays a number of ugly, off-green paints, while its neighbouring plant opts for a simpler Ikea Blue.

In the end, there was still much to explore. A whole horizon of crumbling buildings, filthy smokestacks, and geometrically jagged horizons awaits a future date.

At the end of a long and fruitful adventure, I photographed a final building, on the south side of the street. With my lungs well-oiled and my head spinning, I was ready to get out of here.

Waiting for the #4 bus back into downtown, I came across a set of flags: USA, Canada, and US Steel, all side by side. How could a corporation hold the same weight as country? I thought. And then it hit me. Hamilton is its industry. The Hammer, Steeltown, The Ambitious City.

You can't understand the city if you don't understand its heart, however industrial it may be.