Once, our view of the economic health of Cleveland was centered on industry in areas like the Flats. We believed social wealth depended on the muscle and brains, of men and women who built our economy, who understood they were workers, and built unions to win security, decent wages and dignified working conditions.
In the 70s and 80s I photographed in the Flats, documenting our disappearing industrial landscape and its paradoxical beauty. Things had begun to change. The glory years of industry were gone, but there was still much manufacturing, transportation and other productive activity. But we had entered the decline—including the flight of industry to non-union areas—toward the disastrous economic conditions that we have suffered recently.
Recently, I revisited those negatives, produced good scans, and made better prints.
I hope the images will remind us of a not-so-distant past, stimulate us to think about our history—Cleveland has happily destroyed much of the physical evidence of our great manufacturing and transportation industries—and encourage a complex view of what was a dynamic and engaging constructed landscape.
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