PDN Photo of the Day

O Big Steel Town of Bethlehem

Many photographers have documented the monumental steel mills of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (one of more than a dozen US cities named for the holy site on the minds of Christians this day). They include Walker Evans, who photographed the city in the 1930s for the Farm Security Administration. Joseph E.B. Elliott, who specializes in photographing historic industrial and architectural sites, took more than 1,000 images of the mills from 1989 to 1996, when Bethlehem Steel closed down. His new book of photographs, The Steel, will be published in February by Columbia College Chicago Press. “I certainly feel that I followed the footsteps of Walker Evans,” says Elliott, who shot black-and-white film using a Horseman monorail and an old Linhof Techinika. “I tried to maintain Evans’ dispassionate stance and clarity, but occasionally slipped into a more romantic response to the overwhelming scale and beauty of the place.”

A professor of art at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Elliott has been published in Smithsonian, Wired,  Metropolis and other publications, and his photos are in the collection of the Library of Congress. “In that sense, they reside near Evans’ great FSA work,” he says.

© Joseph E. B. Elliott. “Looking West Towards Blast Furnaces in Snow, After Shutdown.”

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