The theme includes urban exploration, abandoned places, factories, machines, and, of course, nude models. With the nude form set against unnatural environments of concrete and chrome, this series contemplates the contrast between the mechanical and the organic; the clean and the gritty. Even the strongest human body is slight and delicate when compared to the rigid, bulky elements of the industrial backdrops. This theme of industry includes places of manufacturing, construction, as well as completed structures. It is, at its base, a commentary that compares an idealized “human as an animal” to humanity’s perpetual expansion into nature. Some scenes are devoid of the natural world, while others show where industry protrudes into the natural world. The images also celebrate the beauty of industrial achievement, by showcasing icons of mechanization in conjunction with the splendor of the human form. The images are intended to be contemplative rather than declarative, introduce topics for discussion rather than expressing opinions. The presentation is mostly visual and individual interpretations will vary if one draws any conclusion at all.
I’m fascinated by the mortal form set against a rigid, gritty industrial backdrop or gleaming machinery. I have found my way into a number of nearby locations full of concrete, steel, flaking paint, chrome, and rust. Some are abandoned and decaying others are part of bustling small businesses.
These brave and beautiful models have ventured with me into interesting, grimy, and somewhat challenging situations to create a series of images that were anything but trivial to produce. We pushed ourselves to produce the best collection of images we can. Thank you to the models, who endured many hours of uncomfortable surfaces, chilly temperatures, exhausting poses, and stressful schedules, all while appearing serenely calm in the images. In order of appearance, they are: Charity, Emily, Peyton, Ava Moss, Elena Marie, Jorgie Mason, Hope, Megan, Haley
The content includes the images you see here, plus many more, and my concise written thoughts on the processes, locations, and talent that I worked with.
This collection of images features the allure of the female form amongst unnatural environments of concrete and chrome, such as abandoned factories, gritty workspaces, and machine shops. I am drawn to the contrast between the mechanical and the organic, the clean and the gritty. Even the strongest human body is slight and delicate compared to the rigid, bulky elements of the industrial backdrops. This theme of industry includes manufacturing facilities as well as modern structures. At its base, it is a commentary that compares the human as an animal to humanity’s unbridled imposition on nature. Some scenes are devoid of the natural world, while others show where industry protrudes into the natural world. The images also celebrate the beauty of industrial achievement by showcasing icons of mechanization in conjunction with the splendor of the human form.
The images in this collection are more contemplative than declarative, preferring to introduce topics for discussion rather than weigh in with opinions. Although my own thoughts, questions, and interpretations are expressed throughout, the presentation is mostly visual; individual interpretations will vary, if one draws any conclusion at all.
The images chosen to precede this essay embody the two major themes of this compilation. In the first, Charity lays on her back, feet propped against a concrete barrier meant to stop three tons, an apprehensive rest in the urban terrain. On its own, the image’s message is mostly visual. A striking, dark diagonal divides the space and the model’s body bends to bridge these two regions.
On the left, Emily claws at the walls of a cage, designed to protect valuables, and now left for only the curious to explore and contemplate. There is no escape from the filth in this location. The distinct smudge on the sole of her foot is evidence of how quickly the dirt has attached itself. This image fades quickly from sharp focus into murky background shapes. It gives us a single geometric plane of clarity, the mesh to which the model clings, and only hints as to what else is in the darkness.
This cage, in a disused federal government building, was once used to secure valuable equipment. The metal bars and mesh that at one time kept out would-be thieves now serve as a spontaneous perch for Emily.
In the shot at immediate left, Emily wears black cowgirl boots while clinging to the outside of the cage. On the previous page, she balances barefoot on the narrow lip at the bottom of the cage wall. Behind the mesh, a drainage grate and a hand-built equipment rack can be seen. Bits of rope, cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and various dirt litter the concrete floor.
Aesthetically, the images in this set are about line and pattern. Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines cut through the image. The cage walls provide a repeating diamond pattern that adds structure to the overall composition while it divides the background. The two-tone, cinder block wall creates an interesting visual division in the composition.
The palette is dominated by warm, glowing ambers that harmonize with the model’s honey-toned skin and hair. Cold blueish-green hues contrast sharply with the warm colors of the subject as she injects vitality into the lifeless space.
Previous images include Emily ascending a stairwell in a motif that recurs in art of the nude. Then she suspends herself from a ceiling beam by a climbing rope. These connote feelings of struggle and triumph, confinement and liberation.
On the opposite page, the model poses inside the equipment cage as a piece of gear on the rack. On the bottom half of the page, she aligns herself with the flaking rails of a stairwell that plummets to the next level down below. An old sign makes a wry innuendo.
In the next three images, Emily poses on a desk that is a relic of decades gone by. The filth is punctuated by an ashtray and packages from the associated vile habit. In the conclusion of this set, Emily throws a multitude of papers in the air.
This sequence shows two ends of humanity’s intersection with nature: the encroachment of expansion into the wilderness and the subsequent decay of our toys and monuments.
On the opposite page, Peyton sports a casual southern straw hat on a “bridge to nowhere,” a span that extends a quarter mile to the site of a housing development that was never built.
Below, Charity stands in front of a rundown pleasure boat that balances precariously on a stack of wooden blocks. Plucked from the water and past its prime, this once majestic cruiser sits motionless and crumbling, its engines and horns silent, its cabin overrun with insects and greenery. The flybridge canopy and upholstery have succumbed to the elements. This five ton giant’s wood and metal are peeling and separating as saplings grow up in front of it.
On the following pages, Ava stands on a railroad track. There is visual symbolism in the lines converging seemingly boundlessly towards the horizon. Next, Elena Marie sits in a pile of rubble of concrete and steel reinforcing bars.
Then, Hope stands amongst mysterious concrete pillars in an otherworldly vista. She stands on an inexplicably well-manicured lawn in this place that otherwise seems abandoned. Twisted barbed wire intertwines with vines atop the mangled fence.
Finally, Charity explores railway container cars. The soft warm light between the cars contrasts with the harsh daylight in the distance. The train cars themselves are strewn with a mix of signage and evidence of the passage of time in the form of deteriorating paint and bubbling rust.
Around the corner in this fast-moving business, workers were busy kegging a new batch of beer. Emily investigates patterned metal decking, chrome railings, piping, hoses, and enormous tanks. Her hair and skin radiate with the warm tones of honey and wheat, hinting at the succulent product nearby. Our explorer is dwarfed by the scale of hoses and pipes as she traverses her environment. She demonstrates her strength with a massive red hose that forms an imposing circular design around her. Curves and straight lines dominate these images. The predominant colors are that of sapphire-gray steel, accented by occasional copper fittings.
An open door reveals activity outside in this active commercial district. Emily poses just a short distance from the out-of-focus trucks and loading docks, like two alternate realities in this surreal juxtaposition.
Tones of blue and pink give way to toned images that are distilled to near monochrome composition. From the brewhouse control panel to the mammoth tanks and hoses, her upbeat shine reminds us to celebrate the fruits of technology and industry. She periodically acknowledges the viewer with a glance.
These spaces were once used by manufacturers to store and distribute raw materials and finished goods. On the left, Charity leans against a door that must have been a brilliant blue in its day; now, however, rust and soot create a fascinating pattern of color and texture that subtly changes as it migrates down the door. Streaks of rust reveal where water has seeped down when it rains. Located near a deep-water seaport on the South Carolina coast, this building may have housed coal for the steel mills or tons of wire rod for export.
Below, Jorgie poses in the glass block window of a warehouse in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. Once filled with bulk goods, the warehouse now houses an artist’s studio, antiques in storage, a music rental business, as well as businesses associated with the nearby football stadium, such as a food vendor.
Construction, much like decay, can look like chaos. On the opposite page, Haley stands in the middle of a commercial renovation where old materials are being preserved for restoration. The room is at its most basic, the point where everything has been removed for refurbishment, a turning point between past and future.
Below, Jorgie sits in a massive concrete drainage conduit waiting to be installed at the site of a light rail system. A commercial building sits in the background, below the berm, with its roof nearly eye level. The subject’s caramel color stands out against the blue hues of the cement cylinder flanked by tufts of drying vegetation.
On the following pages, she poses against the Charlotte skyline, idyllically silhouetted by the sun setting over the distant buildings. What first appears to be a wasteland of an urban environment is a construction site and a rebirth story. The current state of broken concrete and rebar will give way to revitalization. The three main characters in this composition are the flat construction zone, the rising buildings, and the close figure.
All that we build, if not maintained, eventually falls apart, and nature creeps back in. Grass overtakes asphalt and vines break apart concrete. On the opposite page, Jorgie jumping is a fitting segue from construction into decay. The cold atmosphere is punctuated by the shattered glass on the floor that recedes behind her. Faint yellow outlines where vehicles once parked for service. Her warm, tawny color blazes defiantly through the chilly scene with an explosion of confident energy.
Below, on the left, Marisa poses in a collapsed building. The roof has fallen, its remains strewn across the floor. A child’s school chair, with a built-in writing surface and storage basket, lies on its side at her feet. The harsh sun and sickly colors set the mood. Below, on the right, she poses with old pipes and valves. Her rosy pink form stands out against the blue concrete.
On the following pages, Haley explores a junkyard in rural North Carolina. The automobile is a shell of its former self and a home to moss as it slowly succumbs to the elements. The narrow passage between the cinder block wall and the car, blocked into a dead end by debris, creates extremely soft light on the model.
Next, Marisa creates an ethereal specter; her shimmering movements echo the gradual disintegration of the building. These indistinct images portray the passage of time on multiple levels of scale from minutes to decades.
Maria poses against a door and a window with peeling paint all around. Next, her imposing physique is visually matched by the vertical shape of the machinery. Conduit that used to be on the ceiling, now lies on the floor. In the images of Maria with machines, there is a plethora of menacing shapes, yet she seems oblivious to the hazardous surroundings.
This series ends in the same setting in which it began, in a long-abandoned automobile service garage, with Hope portraying a much different energy. Her introspective pose is captivating, encouraging us to explore the patterns of texture and color throughout the image. Dangling wires and debris fill the frame at the top and bottom.
We conducted this shoot in two trolley cars that had been set together as a dwelling after retiring from transit service in 1930s Charleston South Carolina.
The choice of camera angles in this series is to give a sense of the spaces, in front of, inside, and behind the trolley cars. A glimpse of the horizon and sky as seen through a series of parallel windows and doors draws the viewer’s eye through the depth of the space. On the following pages, both trolley cars can be seen where the doorways line up, with Marisa standing in the closer one. Golden tones splash on the model’s side in contrast to pale greens and blues of the flaking paint around her.
Later in this sequence, bold, orange, rusted metal plates and massive bolts recall a thriving era of robust iron structures built to pass the test of time. The youth of the figure reminds us that our structures are often a legacy that perseveres after the makers have succumbed to the effects of time. These trolley cars have stood for longer than most of us will live.
In the final two images, a nest of wasps can be seen on the wall. This is an indication of how nature spreads into our habitat without humanity’s constant cleaning. Marisa remains partly obscured by the doorway into the next chamber of the trolley car, signaling her movement through it.
Workshops run the gamut from clean to dirty. In the first series of images, Megan explores a variety of old machines, including this early Bridgeport milling machine. Still functional, it is used for drilling metal. It had recently been used for fabricating workshop tools and adapters.
In the background is a Cincinnati Machine Company horizontal milling machine. This device dates back to the early 1900s and sports large woven canvas drive belts.
Later, she poses with a sledgehammer, then a 1970s era engine block. The complicated backgrounds of these scenes remind me of old Dutch paintings I have studied in museums, and I adjusted the colors to match my memories.
At the end of the theme of creation, Ava poses on a steel platform in front of a wall lined with sound dampening material. She employs the unyielding structure to strike a variety of contortions. At the far end of the spectrum, the space is only vaguely industrial in appearance, uncluttered, and clean.
Limited edition photographs from this project:
Emily, Brewhouse Tank 6/25
Edition of 25 ~ 10×7 inches$155
Paper Toss! 2/25
Edition of 25 ~ 16×11 inches$215
Emily on the Bridge 2/10
Edition of 10 ~ 20×16 inches$299
Charlotte Skyline (sold out)
Edition of 10 ~ 10×7 inches$185
Marisa Trolley Car 5/25
Edition of 25 ~ 24×16 inches$299
Reclining with Machines 2/10
Edition of 10 ~ 27×40 inches$1,440
Jump, Jorgie, Garage 3/100
Edition of 100 ~ 10×7 inches$155