Saturday, July 6, 2013


On one of my recent forays into Milwaukee's South Side, I spotted a cluster of industrial buildings on the banks of the Menomonee River west of 6th Street that were being nicely warmed by the bright morning sun.  As with the Pabst and Schlitz campuses, the buildings were faced with cream city brick that had been (at least partially) cleaned and restored in recent years.  Here are a couple of the shots of the buildings that I took while standing on the 6th Street bridge over the river.

So two days later I went back to explore this possibility further.  It turns out that these buildings are part of the Pfister & Vogel Tannery campus.  At its peak in the 19th century, Pfister & Vogel was the world's largest manufacturer of leather goods.  Leather manufacture was a natural for Milwaukee because of the strong dairy business in the rural parts of the state.  Here is a shot of what had to be the headquarters building.

The workmanship in this archway is impressive, as shown in this detail.

The tannery business in the US has been in a long decline, primarily due to pressure from off-shore manufacturers, and Pfister & Vogel finally closed its doors in 2000.  But it is obvious that many of the buildings had been abandoned and in serious decline for many years.  Exactly what I was looking for.

A rail line runs through the campus, and I took a few shots on the tracks.  Here is one of a small abandoned guardhouse on the tracks as it crosses the river.

And an "artsy" shot of some weeds growing through the tracks.

Here my goal was to isolate the grass from the background, so I opened up the aperture to blur out the background, including a row of railroad spikes in the background.  Just OK, I think.

Several of the buildings south of the tracks had been restored; not so with those on the north side.  So I had plenty to work with.  Here is a shot of one of the buildings the perspective for which I "rectified" in post processing.

Here is a shot of paint failure that I couldn't pass up.  It was the pastel colors that caught my eye.

An obsession of mine recently has been brickwork.  And one of the points of interest I noted here was the multi-colored quality of some of the brickwork.  I found the following halfway down an alley between buildings.  I think there was a surveillance camera in the alley, but I'm assuming no one would be bothered by what I was doing.

Presumably, the green is due to moss growing on the bricks, and cream city brick is notorious for absorbing urban pollution, turning the brick dark.  But what was with the red, pink, orange, and light blue bricks?  Here's another one.

I like these.

I also spent a fair amount of time shooting the abundant graffiti that was scattered about.  The following was situated on a retaining wall.

However, other pieces were located in unexpected places, such as on a drainpipe in the following photo

. . . and on the facing of the base of a loading dock.

I wondered if this was the same artist as did the drainpipe.

I spent some time doing detail shots of the graffiti on the retaining wall and really liked the results.  Here are a few of those photos.


Here is a shot taken just as the sun was starting to hit the peeling paint.

And finally, one where I ignored the color and converted to a black & white.

I especially like the last couple of shots.

It is apparent from these shots that in some cases the graffiti (or prior graffiti) had predated the paint failure, such as the penultimate photo, but in others, including the last one above, the graffiti had been done after the failure.


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