Photography of Larry Williamson
Kitchener and Waterloo, only 100km south west of Toronto was once a thriving centre of industrial activity. Before our current high tech, information based industries, factories produced footwear, car parts, stoves and iron fixtures, furniture, tires and other rubber products and the list goes on. People made their living working in these factories. They would have worked long hours. For many it would be in dismal, often dangerous conditions. But it was a living, a livelihood.
Today, in our relatively affluent society, we find it difficult to imagine such a life where there would be little hope of doing anything more than simply feeding one’s family, all the while hoping and praying to keep one’s job, as difficult as that job may be.
It is my hope that through these photographs, we catch a small glimpse of that past, our history. Maybe we will sense the harsh conditions, the drudgery of the daily work in spaces that would not inspire but rather oppress, grind down at one’s enthusiasm for life.
Can you smell the grease, the oily dust in the air? Feel the hot, almost choking humidity of a closed-in factory in the summer? The dim light, deafening noises of machinery clanging all day long in your ear?
I have lived most of my life in that community. I remember many of these factories when they were fully operational. One or two factories still operate. Krug Furniture, for example, is still an important and vibrant employer in the community producing beautiful, quality furniture. Most, however, have fallen into disuse, become derelict, an embarrassing eyesore - to some.
It is my desire, my intent, to help us see beyond the eyesore and instead see these derelict “ugly” places as still beautiful in their own way. We might look on them and wonder about those who worked there? What were their lives like? Imagine the first day a young boy or girl starting work “on the floor”, the mixture of emotions they might have experienced.
Even in their derelict state, these factories are with us only for a while. This is a transitional time. We assumed they would never stop employing and feeding our community. Then we saw them shut down, machines turned off, doors locked. But now visionaries in our communities are reimagining these buildings to suit new purposes, to be useful, vibrant places once again. New futures will be fed and nourished in these amazing spaces.
Take a look, imagine, dream, and try to see these places with new eyes.
Larry Williamson, May 2016
All the images in this show are 24x36" chromogenic prints mounted on dibond with an aluminum mounting frame on the back. A few are still available at $500 (plus shipping) each. Please get in touch if you are interested in purchasing one of these.