Book Review: Portsmouth: Collected Saturdays
By Tyler Austin
In the past, large companies have been known to invade rural communities in the United States. Bringing with them large factories, population growth, and urbanization as part of a process called, industrialization. This action has the potential to be very beneficial to an area but eventually some of these companies end up leaving.
Portsmouth is a small town in Ohio that has been through both of these processes. Photographer Ken D. Ashton visited the river-town and documented some of the lasting effects on the community. The collection of images are comprised in his recent photo book Portsmouth: Collected Saturdays by Ken D. Ashton.
The intention of the book is to showcase the impact that deindustrialization has on small towns like Portsmouth. The haunting images show the skeleton of a once thriving town with broken sidewalks, vacant lots, and deserted homes. As you flip through its pages the most noticeable aspect of the book is the lack of actual people. The images show almost no signs of human activity, which is a testament to deindustrialization, seeing as depopulation is a common after-effect.
Toward the end of the book we also get the complex history of Portsmouth, including its past as a part of the Underground Railroad and the lasting racial tensions affecting its housing market.
Written by Kriston Capps, the concluding essay is crucial to the book's theme as it delves into the main causes of the town's condition are results of decisions and actions made 80 years ago.
The book is an ominous wake-up call to its readers that these companies can wreak havoc right in our own backyards.