Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas to All

© Eliot Wright, 2013Another year has come and gone and I find myself once again celebrating Christmas with family and friends. Twenty-thirteen turned out to be a big year for photography for me: I was the Assistant Director at ViewPoint Gallery, became the secretary for PHOTOPOLIS: The Halifax Festival of Photography, and receiving a substantial Arts Nova Scotia grant for the NS Industrial Project (which I've been writing about on this blog). It was a good year for commercial photography as well, having completed projects for NSCAD University and St. Mary's University, documented artwork for a host of NS visual artists and even worked with Chris Nicholls on a location fashion shoot during the summer. As a result, I've shot more images in the past twelve months than I have in 2010, 2011 and 2012 combined!

On a more personal note, I recently got engaged to my partner and collaborator Liz van Allen, who has had a big year launching her eva Jewellery brand, too! To close out the year, I wrote a little Christmas story for Arts East—an Atlantic-based e-magazine related to all things art. Head over to their website to read, "The Family Tree." Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for the new year!

To celebrate, here are some of my favourite images from the past year...

© Eliot Wright, 2013
Urban Landscape, Halifax, Nova Scotia

© Eliot Wright, 2013
Grain storage facility, Colchester County, Nova Scotia

© Eliot Wright, 2013
Stellarton Coal Mine, Pictou County, Nova Scotia
© Eliot Wright, 2013
Beach Portraits, Bayswater Beach, Nova Scotia
© Eliot Wright, 2013
Ceramics Studio, NSCAD University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

© Eliot Wright, 2013
Working on "What Happened to Esther," a film by Jenna Marks, NSCAD University, Halifax, Nova Scotia

© Eliot Wright, 2013
MIG Welding, Metal Shop, NSCAD University, Halifax, Nova Scotia
© Eliot Wright, 2013
Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, NetPlay Works, Bridgetown, Nova Scotia
© Eliot Wright, 2013
Jewellery by Theresa Lee Capell (left) and Liz van Allen (right)
© Eliot Wright, 2013
St. Mary's University Alumni, Halifax, Nova Scotia
© Eliot Wright, 2013
New Construction, Burnside, Nova Scotia

Friday, December 6, 2013

NS Industrial Update: Bowater Mersey

Entrance to the offices at Bowater Mersey, Brooklyn, NS
After photographing Stanfield's Limited in Truro in early November, I figured that was pretty much the end of the photography portion of this project. When I was beginning to sort through some of the 2000 frames I'd taken so far, a contact got back to me with information about the Bowater Mersey paper mill in Brooklyn, on the southern shore of Nova Scotia. A few emails later and we were on our way down to tour the plant!

Tanks at Bowater Mersey, NS
The old Mersey started production back in 1929 and primarily produced newsprint over the course of its life. The Chronicle Herald and The Washington Post were two of its largest buyers, but the plant had been idled in mid-2012 due to high operational costs. Now decommissioned, a crew had started deconstruction of some of the buildings just a few weeks before we arrived. Damn! Nonetheless, outfitted in our reflective vests, hard hats and steel-toed boots, we toured the facilities looking for engaging subject matter. Our guide was knowledgeable about the space and explained much to us about the process of a "thermomechanical" (TMP) mill, such as Bowater Mersey was.

The paper making process
Unfortunately, the most telling aspect of a pulp and paper mill, its Fourdrinier-style paper machine (the floor filled with large rollers where the pulp is pressed, dried, cut and placed on rolls etc.), was virtually un-photographable as the power had been cut and the room was plunged into darkness. Even without the room lights, I managed to make some interesting images with the natural light trickling through the few windows that were there. Other areas of the plant still had power and I worked away photographing in the sodium-lit industrial landscape.

After about two and half months of pretty consistent travelling and shooting, Liz and I are now in the editing stages and will soon be designing the jewellery pieces. More on that to come soon!

The end of the line, Bowater Mersey, Brooklyn, NS

Monday, November 18, 2013

Stanfield's Limited in Truro

South Facade, Stanfield's Limited, Truro NS
Haven't heard of Stanfield's before? Unless you happen to live in a tropical climate, I expect someone in your family has a garment from Stanfield's. Those old woollen underwear your dad wore every winter—yup—they probably made them. In fact, they became known as "The Underwear Company" for their tremendous success in Canadian market.

The classic Stanfield's logo
It turns out that Stanfield's Limited actually began as Tryon Woolen Mills in 1856 in PEI and Truro didn't become it's home until 1870. After moving to Nova Scotia the business rebranded as Truro Woolen Mills, and after a number of years and another name change they incorporated as Stanfield's Limited.

The Stanfield's facility was one of the nicest locations we've visited this fall. One of the greatest pleasures on the tour was seeing high quality products being produced locally, with such pride and care. Aspects of the building's 1882 roots were still visible—beautiful brick construction, metal doors, and wood floors—but the old feeling was offset by bright new windows, computer controlled pattern-stamping equipment and laser cuttings tools. However, should you ever get a tour, you can still see many employees working behind their sewing machines and cutting patterns by hand, which one employee explained, "…was the only way there was to do it."

Naturally we had to stop in to the outlet store on our way out. There is certainly something comforting about wearing a merino wool sweater that is hand knit, dyed, cut, stitched and sewn less than 100 km away from home!

Reflection outside Stanfield's Limited Truro, NS


Monday, November 4, 2013

Industrial Cape Breton

Rail Bridge looking East, Iona, Cape Breton
For an area once known as "Industrial Cape Breton," present-day Cape Breton County has done a good job of covering up its history. Indeed, it is hard to find a community that wasn't once home to one or more coal mines during the last 200 years, but little traces are visible today. According to the NS Department of Natural Resources, there were once dozens of coal mines spread across the county. Today, even the 400 acre Sydney Steel plant has been entirely removed, and is now halfway covered by a system of public parks. The only remaining traces of the Sydney behemoth are some metal scraps, a loading crane, and a huge slag heap—unless you want to include the memorial plaque they have erected for visitors to the park.

It's not that the disappearance of these industrial places is a bad thing, as they do come with their fair share of environmental and human safety concerns—think, falling down an abandoned mine shaft, or living next to the tar ponds—but in twenty years will anyone really understand the scale of what went on in Cape Breton? Museums and memorials will play there part in reminding people of what "once was," but I expect much will be lost to the younger generations. In relation to our NS Industrial Project, if Liz and I had photographed even five years earlier, I think we would have seen a much different landscape. Thanks again to Arts Nova Scotia for making this project possible. Here is a selection of what we saw in CB recently:

Remnants of the Sydney Steel plant, Sydney, Cape Breton

Historic Miners Homes, Glace Bay, Cape Breton

Steel chunks from ingots poured years ago found while mining slag, Sydney, Cape Breton

Covering the reclaimed open-pit mine at Point Aconi, Cape Breton

Former Dominion No. 14 Mine, now a recreational park, New Waterford, Cape Breton

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Refinished Burke & James View Camera


Refinished Burke & James View Camera.

During the limited time that I am not working on the NS Industrial Project (see previous posts), you'll find me cooking, watching movies and lately, restoring old cameras.

The little Futura S w/ 50mm f2.0.
It began when I came across an old Futura S rangefinder from the fifties that needed a bit of love. A quick inspection led to the discovery of a sticky Syncro-Compur shutter—they often get that way, especially the slow speeds—and some spider mould in the lens. Otherwise it was in fairly promising shape, and is currently loaded with some Ilford  HP-5 to give it a "test run," so to speak. More on my conclusions later.

The camera I am most excited about is a Burke & James 4x5 view camera, also from the 1950s. It has been in my possession for a few years now, but age had gotten the better of it long before it was in my hands. The original grey paint was cracking and the hardware had rusted over its (neglected) lifetime, amongst some other issues. Not to mention, the original lens had been swapped for an old enlarging lens, which was filled with dust and mildew as well. However, I decided that due to the simplicity of the camera and the quality wood construction, it would be worthwhile restoring. The lens was easy enough to rebuild as well, but I'm currently hunting for a suitable replacement outfitted with an oh-so-necessary shutter mechanism. The following photographs show the B&J before, during, but mostly after refinishing—because let's be honest, that's what you want to look at anyways!

Left: The camera components before refinishing.  Right: Cleaned, lacquered and ready for assembly.
Completely refinished Burke & James view camera, demonstrating full movements. 

Left: Original nameplate, made in Chicago, USA.  Right: Detail of wood, hardware and the front standard. 

Folded and ready for travel; front and rear views. It's actually quite compact. 

Left: Re-drawn grid lines, new light seal foam, and new paint.  Right: The B&J in its 'standard' position.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Travelling Nova Scotia

Mabou, Nova Scotia, October 2013


It has been about six weeks since Liz van Allen and I began work on our NS Industrial Project and I have to be honest, we've been going non-stop. As we've been driving from one end of the province to the other, it has really reminded us how beautiful and diverse Nova Scotia is. Travelling during the fall has proven to be as rewarding as we hoped—bold blue skies, warm light, moderate weather, vibrant fall leaves and wonderful sunsets.

Hammers at Craftsman Art Supply
A few weeks back, Liz collected her new bench and some tools from The Craftsman's Art Supply Limited out in Minevine, Nova Scotia. It is a small store but it is packed with excellent products and Bob is very knowledgeable about all the equipment he carries. A real gem—pardon the pun—for local jewellers.

Liz in heaven
While on the north side of the Bay of Fundy, Liz couldn't resist visiting the Parrsboro Rock and Mineral Shop and Museum—a long name for place with a long history of gemstone and fossil collecting in the area. Eldin George, the fellow who owns the shop is well into his 90's now and opened in 1948 (yes, that long ago). Throughout his life, he's been credited with discovering many "world firsts," including the world's smallest dinosaur tracks. Needless to say, Liz was like a kid in a candy store.

There are a few more locations to photograph yet, with Stanfield's in Truro next on the list, and I'm already looking forward to it! For now, enjoy this collection of images taken as we've travelled throughout beautiful "New Scotland."

Abandoned farmhouse near Earltown, NS






Liz collecting some gemstones at Parrsboro Rock and Mineral Shop and Museum

Farmland near Milford, NS

Joggin's Fossil Centre, Joggins, NS

Sunset over Pugwash, NS

Monday, October 14, 2013

NS Industrial Project: Railways

Old "Short Line" rail bridge near Tatamagouche, NS.












Fall colours and rust.
Happy Thanksgiving! It has been wonderful watching the leaves change colour as we've been travelling throughout Nova Scotia this fall. We've already driven over 4000 km or so, and we still have more locations to visit. Tomorrow morning we head to Cape Breton, where there Celtic Colours festival is in full swing. The island should be bustling with activity, but we'll be tracking down old mines and industrial locations, rather than celtic music.

Eliot Wright on the Swing Bridge.
If we were to go back 100 years, it is likely we'd be taking the train to Cape Breton. The rail system was king then, and there were many more railways that snaked across the landscape, connecting communities throughout Nova Scotia. Developing in tandem with the industrial revolution, the rail system was incredibly important for industry as a means to move product. As a matter of fact, if you look back, the railways in the province were strategically laid out to pass through communities with a large industrial presence.

Visiting sites in present day, it is interesting to see how things have changed. At some sites—like Ferrona and Londonderry—you can barely pick out forgotten rail-beds, whereas locations like Trenton Works (in Trenton) and National Gypsum in Milford you'll find trains are still used to move material (if less frequently). In other places, you can see retired railways that have been converted into trail systems like the Trans Canada Trail, which meanders its way across the whole country via old rail beds.

Detail of common rail bridge construction, taken by Liz van Allen.

The Swing Bridge, near Wallace, NS, now part of the Trans Canada Trail.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

NS Industrial Project: Slag

Liz explores the slag heap near Ferrona, NS

In our "Week Two" update, we mentioned visiting a slag heap near the former town of Ferrona, NS, but gave no further information. After discovering another slag heap in the once iron ore mining community of Londonderry, NS, we felt we should elaborate. 

Slag heap near Londonderry, NS
In the late 1800's Londonderry was known as Acadia Mines, and was one of the largest and most successful iron ore mining locations in Nova Scotia. Once home to nearly 5,000 residents, it is now just shy of 200. Historically, when the iron ore was smelted, the impurities (slag) would separate from the iron and would be scraped off into ladle cars while still in a molten state. From there, the slag would be carted by rail or horse to a nearby site and dumped, thus cooling and forming large mineral deposits commonly called slag heaps.

Layers of slag formed over the years.
It was shocking to see how different the slag was in colour and texture between Londonderry and Ferrona. 
In both locations, you could clearly see how the layers formed from the repeated pouring of slag over many years. It became clear to us—through some minor research—that the slag varied depending on mineral make up of the iron ore being smelted and the ground conditions of the surrounding rock and soil. Exploring these landscapes, it was hard to imagine what it might have looked like some hundred years ago. To us, these piles of slag serve as a defiant reminder of the industrial history these communities share.


Detail from Ferrona, NS







Sunday, September 29, 2013

McNabs Island Visit

A few weeks back, some friends invited me to join them for a day trip to McNabs Island, a small island at the mouth of the Halifax harbour with a big history. While the island once played an important role in defending the harbour, it is now a quiet provincial park restricted only to those who take the short boat ride over. We spent a number of hours roaming through the old military bunkers, walking the beaches and exploring the landscape. The following few photographs were mostly taken in Fort McNab, but also on Maugher Beach and throughout the other fortifications.