I grew up in a small Southern town where textile mills and the tobacco factory (“American”) cast long shadows. These “plants” were mostly large, red brick, fairly nondescript manufacturing facilities where mill workers, doing labor-intensive work, transformed raw materials into desirable products. I always imagined what went on inside – working the line – to be as monotonous and repetitive as the architecture itself.
Not until these mills and factories had long closed and were ultimately deconstructed, brick by brick, did I realize their inherent architectural qualities. While some of these buildings are reborn – given a second life as schools, condominiums, theme restaurants or boutique stores – others are simply left abandoned, crumbling and condemned.
This liminal state is what I find most intriguing. Suddenly, the quality of light, the once vivid colors, the repetition, and both the symmetry and asymmetry become a collective thing of beauty. These structures also stand as a testament to what once was, and to the towns and lives they supported.
Photographing these abandoned factories led me to photographing other structures, all originally designed in a utilitarian way for utilitarian purposes. Only when the purpose no longer exists, and the buildings are left abandoned and crumbling, do their distinctive, almost other-worldly, qualities surface.
The first seventeen of these images were made at Battery Russell, built in 1904 at Fort Stevens on the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon, and de-commissioned in 1944. The remaining seventeen images were made in the South, within North Carolina, and taken from the vantage point of the railway tracks along the Southern Railway System route. I feel that all of these images open a small window into where we have been and where we might be going.
Diana Bloomfield has been an exhibiting photographer for thirty years. She has received numerous awards for her images, including a 1985 New Jersey State Visual Arts Fellowship, and four Regional Artist Grants from the United Arts of Raleigh, NC, most recently for 2006-07. Her photographs have been included in Pinhole Photography: Rediscovering a Historic Technique (3rd Edition), by Eric Renner; Robert Hirsch’s Exploring Color Photography Fifth Edition: From Film to Pixels (2011); Christina Z. Anderson’s Gum Printing and Other Amazing Contact Printing Processes (2013); and, most recently, in Jill Enfield’s Guide to Photographic Alternative Processes: Popular Historical and Contemporary Techniques (June 2013). Her work has also been included in the Pinhole Journal; The Post Factory Journal; Chinese Photography; The Sun; Diffusion; North Carolina Literary Review; and SxSE (South x Southeast).
Diana also works as an independent curator and has organized and curated several pinhole and alternative process exhibitions.
A native North Carolinian, Diana currently lives and works in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she received her MA in English Literature and Creative Writing from North Carolina State University. She continues to write and teach photography workshops. Her work is represented in Raleigh by Adam Cave Fine Art, and by Tilt Gallery located in Scottsdale, Arizona.