A Sharp Look at the Surprisingly Complex Process of Pencil Manufacturing by Photographer Christopher Payne
Photographer Christopher Payne (previously) spent several years building a relationship with the owners of General Pencil Company in Jersey City, New Jersey, one of the last remaining pencil factories in the United States. His dedication to working with the factory paid off, and between fall 2015 and summer 2017 Payne was granted access to the production floor for photo-documentation more than thirty times.
The photographer, renowned for his cinematic images that show the architectural grace of manufacturing spaces, shares that he has held a lifelong fascination with design, assembly, and industrial processes. “The pencil is so simple and ubiquitous that we take it for granted,” Payne tells Colossal. “But making one is a surprisingly complex process, and when I saw all the steps involved, many of which are done by hand, I knew it would make for a compelling visual narrative.”
Payne received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture, though he has long focused on photography in his professional life. He has published three books and exhibited his work widely, most recently at the Wellcome Collection in London, U.K. and the Museum of the City of New York. You can see more of his work on Facebook and Instagram.
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Typically focusing on obsolete or decrepit architectural structures, photographer Chris Payne's most recent project, Textiles, documents the aesthetics of the colorfully-hued American textile industry. His photographs showcase the bright runs of yarn and thread as the materials makes their way through the hyper-organized machinery, appearing digitally altered in their extreme hot pinks, vibrant reds, and electric blues.
Payne began photographing the factories and mills in America’s Northeast in 2010. The images are not just snapshots of the industry, but photographs that sometimes took months to catch. Due to the machinery’s continuous run and his inability to halt production, Payne had to wait until the perfect moment when the right color would appear, or the parts of the machinery would perfectly align. Payne also features the workers within his documentation of the diminishing domestic industry, explaining that their inclusion is proof that labor and craftsmanship is still valued in our current economy.
“Over the past five years, I have gained access to an industry that continues to thrive, albeit on a much smaller scale, and for the most part, out of public view,” said Payne. “Many mills are doing quite well, having modernized to stay competitive, while others have survived by catering to niche markets that value the ‘genuine article’ produced on the original, vintage equipment. I view my work as a celebration of American manufacturing—not a eulogy.
Trained as an architect, Payne typically shoots architectural structures using large format documentation to capture America’s industrial landscape. Past projects have included exploring America’s asylums and an uninhabited island named North Brother Island in New York City’s East River. Payne’s Asylum series will appear at Benrubi Gallery February 11, 2016 and run through March 26, 2016. (via Huffington Post)
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