Sunday, April 27, 2014


I shot photos at the abandoned Solvay Coke Plant, on Milwaukee's south side, on a number of occasions in 2013.  I "enjoyed" not just the plant's overall decrepitude but the array of litter and graffiti that it offered.  Driving by the site later last year, I had noted a significant amount of construction activity on the site, and I was concerned that the buildings--or at least what was left of them--were going to be razed in anticipation of the redevelopment of this notable Superfund site.  This last week I paid my first visit of 2014 to the location and was relieved (I think) to find that the construction equipment was gone and that the buildings were still standing.  So I took a few more shots of what has become a familiar venue.

Here first is a "grand" shot of the factory's largest space, essentially a three-story high room that is absolutely littered with junk.

It was a sunny day, and the light streaming through the doorway in the lower left was confusing my camera's autoexposure system.  In the end, I decided to let the door go overexposed in order to expose adequately the remainder of the space.  For this shot, I set the aperture at a narrow f/16 to maximize depth of field and set the autoexposure system to slow the shutter speed by the equivalent of one f-stop (to 1/2 second) in order to override the reading from the light of the open doorway.  For whatever reason, I shot this image vertically, but I think it would have been more effective to have shot it horizontally.

Graffiti artists are continually revisiting this location, and there was a fair amount of new graffiti since my last visit some 8 or 9 months ago.  Here is one of those.

Papa Smurf, maybe?

The following really features two different graffiti on separate walls, one behind the other.

And here is a well done graffito outside the building that I have shot before.  Still like its artistry.

One of the things I am trying to do is to create better context in my shots.  This has been a failure for me, and I'm afraid that the above shots illustrate that deficiency.  I thought I did a better job with the following photos.  In this first photo I had been working on some shots that featured just the openings on the left, and then I noticed the interesting graffito on the wall to the right and decided to combine the two points of interest in a single shot.

In this next shot, I had been focusing just on the graffito in the right portion of the image.  And then I realized that including the stairway/ladder in the image might tell a better story.

The same can be said for the shots I took of the junk littering the floor.  Initially, I had thought to take a shot just of the boot in the following photo but then realized that incorporating more of the industrial detritus might add something.  Not pretty, but perhaps that was the point.

The same can be said for the shot of the metal spring in the following photo.

Finally, what caught my eye was a paint brush full of dried vivid green paint (obviously used by a graffiti artist).  Here I should have included more "context."  In an attempt to make up for that, in post processing I decided to focus on the green paint by setting all of the other colors to zero saturation, essentially converting the image into a black & white except for the green paint.

The brush is resting on some sort of shattered glass fixture.  Just a fun shot.

This abandoned site, perhaps 75 yards off a dead-end road in an industrial area, is, frankly, creepy, and I finally decided that I had had enough . . . until next time.


1 comment:

  1. John, you make even a trashed place interesting with your photos. Thanks for sharing all of your pictures.