Photographer Kevin Scanlon has spent the last thirty years chronicling the elegance of railroads, steel mills, and heavy industry throughout the country. He shoots steel mills -- active and silent -- West Virginia coalfields, and the dwindling railway systems in America. As the gallery intro says, "His images capture an important historical era that spans the end of the twentieth century into the new millennium." He loves this world, and chronicles it with a sense of belonging.
He's also my uncle, and he is the person who first taught me to love photography -- and appreciate the grace of machines. I've enjoyed his work since before I could walk, and I'm overjoyed to see it online now, where the rest of the world can find it more easily. I'm a biased critic, but I really love my uncle's work. He says:
"I am still a child. I have always been fascinated with big things, especially big machines. My photography has tended toward industrial subjects. In the 1970s I started photographing steel mills as a documentary project. Over the years I found that I was reacting to the mills, especially the blast furnaces, more from an emotional than a documentary viewpoint. Something about their tremendous size is both scary and attractive, and ultimately magnificent."
"Standing near an operating blast furnace is like becoming that child again watching a robot monster movie on Saturday afternoon. The mill looms above. The men working around the bottom move cautiously and wear protective clothing. There is a constant roar from the blast stoves, the unique smell of hot metal-and there is the light. Molten iron emits a glowing light that is mesmerizing. You want to reach down and scoop up a handful of this flowing strand of light."
Image: Sunrise, Edgar Thomson Works. Link to gallery home, Link to steel mill photos (these are my favorite!), link to Pennsylvania railroad photos, Link to Appalachian railroad photos.
Merry Christmas, Uncle Kev, and thank you for capturing the soul of endangered machines.
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