The Steel

"The Steel", as the Bethlehem Steel Corporation is know by the residents of Bethlehem Pennsylvania, was once the second largest steel company in the United States. In 1997 steel making at the plant ended, and in 2003 the Bethlehem Steel Corporation ceased to exist after 140 years of operation.

I was invited by an artist friend to join a small group being allowed access to the remains of the Bethlehem Steel plant to capture images of what remained in 2005. Freely wandering about the 1,800 hundred acre, 4.5 mile long, site was not possible. We did have some latitude to explore certain areas, but the complete site was "off limits" to us. By the summer of 2005, much of the plant had been demolished and new industries had moved in. Some of the more interesting buildings were still standing and while most of them were vacant, a remaining few were simply frozen-in-time when the plant closed.

As I photographed, I was continually aware of how nature rapidly reclaims spaces after human activity has ceased. The growth of small trees in the various nooks and crannies of the blast furnaces illustrates this reclamation. The fact that trees can grow in such an unexpected place gives new twist to steel making as a "dirty business".

Like most operations that abruptly shut down, the workers didn't return after their shift--they just walked out and left little clues to the fact that they had once inhabited the space.

As I photographed "The Steel", it was difficult comprehending the full scale of steel making at this site. Millions of tons steel were made here each year and the size of everything--buildings, equipment, and the internal transportation network reflect this. These photographs capture but a tiny fraction of the once dynamic flagship mill of The Steel.

Click on this link to buy a book of The Steel photographs.