Many of these scenes are familiar and many of these places are known, but that doesn’t make and of this less striking. Photographer Christopher Payne set out to capture the landscapes and workrooms of America’s textile mills and factories. The scenes are intense and colorful, and may very well serve as a time-capsule portrait of an industrial complex which is nearing its last run. These photos and the photographer came to my attention recently through ‘Fruit of the Loom‘, a recent New York Times Magazine photo essay. This textile photo series began when Christopher “stumbled on an old yarn mill in Maine” and was inspired by the old machinery and the small-scale manufacturing that is largely forgotten in America. Payne visits Woolrich in Pennsylvania, New England Shirt in Fall River and various other mills in-between, seeking the beautiful colors and symmetrical scenes that these seeming lost industrial holdovers present.
The sweeping brick textile factories that are part of this series were once a pillars of small town New England with the rivers naturally powering America’s industrial revolution. Looking for cheaper labor, the manufacturing drifted south to New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and eventually all the way to the southern states. In the past several decades that race to the bottom has carried the lion’s share of this production much further afield. Though, through Christopher’s lens we realize that there’s enough left to give an alluring glimpse of what must have been way back when.