Photo Journal Mondays: Christopher Payne
Project: Made in USA: Textiles
In this era of service jobs and office work, most of us have never been inside a factory. Several decades of overseas competition, unequal trade policies, and a flood of cheap imports have decimated American factories. Since 1990, job losses in apparel and textiles have been greater than those in any other type of manufacturing, and today we have little idea where, or how, the shirt on our back is made.
In 2010, I discovered an old yarn mill in Maine, still functioning as it had for decades, using vintage equipment now prized for producing the “genuine article”. Since then 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. The photographs in this series are from mills in the Northeast, the birthplace of the American textile industry. The mill workers are a cross section of young and old, skilled and unskilled, recent immigrants, and veteran employees whose families have worked in textiles for generations. Together, they share a quiet pride and dignity, and are proof that manual labor and craftsmanship still have value in today’s economy.