Category: Text

The Loyalist Bonfires of Belfast, Northern Ireland

Bonfire on the Street

I recently visited Belfast, Northern Ireland to continue documentation of Eleventh Night and The Twelfth, two controversial holidays during which Protestant Loyalists build massive bonfires and parade through city streets. While Loyalists describe the events as “family friendly” cultural activities, doing so ignores their role as expressions of Protestant political power and steadfast support for Northern Ireland’s membership in the United Kingdom. Given Belfast’s ongoing conflict between the Loyalists and the Catholic Republicans who desire a politically united Ireland, the holiday activities operate as claims over the contested city.

While the political nature of the parades is somewhat buried in historical references on banners and the often unspoken lyrics of flute band songs, the bonfires unambiguously express political perspectives. Viewers need not know that the stacked pallet and tire bonfires are references to a 17th century Protestant victory over Catholics to know the political and religious stakes. In most communities, political allegiances are boldly proclaimed through flags, whether through the nearly ubiquitous flying of the Union Jack or the burning of the Irish Republic’s Tricolor, as well as through political slogans such as “KAT” (shorthand for “Kill All Taigs” [Derogatory slang for Irish Catholics]) in more aggressive districts.

As the Troubles fade and the reconciliation process continues, the City Council is attempting to facilitate a transition to a new Eleventh Night model by offering financial incentives to burn wood chip beacons in recognition of the historical victory without burning of flags and tires. Still, most Loyalist communities rebuff the subsidies not only because the beacons are fast burning and less visually stunning but because they fear loss of the tradition and the already waning youth interest in bonfire construction — and, ultimately, the political conflict in general. These communities’ perspective on the issue can be summed up by one 2012 bonfire banner: “Culture Above Cash.” When put in context, the banner could just as easily read “Politics Above Cash.”

The following bonfire photographs are selections from my recent work in Northern Ireland. I will be updating my Belfast series page with some of these images shortly. Many additional images may be viewed on flickr.

Loyalist Bonfire, ASDA

Burning the Kids' Bonfire

Massive Bonfire Through Fence

City Center Bonfire

In the Shankill

Bonfire Near the Westlink

Bonfire in the Village

Watching the Bonfire Burn

Watching the Shankill Bonfire

Working Legacies: The Death and (After) Life of Post-Industrial Milwaukee

Your Company Name & Logo Here
Your Company Name & Logo Here (2011)

Since Fall 2009 historian Michael Carriere and I have been working on a project documenting a range of community and economic initiatives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

On Friday, December 16, the first public presentation of that material will open at the Grohmann Museum in Milwaukee. The exhibition, entitled “Working Legacies: The Death and (After) Life of Post-Industrial Milwaukee,” will run at the Grohmann, 1000 N. Broadway, until February 6, 2012. A Gallery Night event with the two of us will run from 5-9pm on January 20, 2012.

Additional information about the show is available in this interview on Salon. Background information can be found on The Huffington Post. An image of the exhibition and sample photographs follow.

Working Legacies: The Death and (After) Life of Post-Industrial Milwaukee
A view of “Working Legacies” at the Grohmann Museum

Foundry Worker at Falk
Foundry Worker at Falk Facility, Rexnord (2011)

Growing Power
Growing Power (2009)

House, Froedtert Malt Corporation
House, Froedtert Malt Corporation/Malteurop (2011)

Swing Bridge, Grain Elevator, River, Neon Light
Chicago and Northwestern Transportation Company Swing Bridge (2011)

Sweet Water Organics
Sweet Water Organics (2009)

Occupy Everywhere

As I’ve been traveling in the last few weeks, I’ve visited Occupy Wall Street affiliated locations in six different cities: Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and both locations in Washington, D.C. Now that winter is approaching and Occupy locations are changing, I thought I should share a couple of photographs from each location.

I will add additional photographs here as I have occasion to visit new sites.


Tax the Rich

Arrests Begin at Occupy Chicago Demonstration in Grant Park

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – McKeldin Fountain Square

Occupy Baltimore

Occupy Baltimore in McKeldin Park

CLEVELAND, OHIO – With Occupy the Hood

Occupy the Hood/Occupy Cleveland

Occupy the Hood/Occupy Cleveland

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – Grand Circus Park

Occupy Detroit


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Freedom Plaza

Occupy D.C., Freedom Square
Occupy D.C., Freedom Square


With His Occupy Minneapolis Shirt

Occupy Milwaukee at Night

WASHINGTON, D.C. – McPherson Square

Occupy D.C., McPherson Square

Signs from Occupy D.C., McPherson Square

Perlman Place and Baltimore, Maryland

I recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to present at the American Society of Criminology annual meeting, around which I tacked a couple of extra days to photograph throughout D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland.

I was particularly interested in following up with Perlman Place, a row house block in Baltimore I photographed when visiting the area in 2010. The product of years of decline and a failed redevelopment project, the city planned to demolish of 67 of the approximately 80 houses on the block. Two images of Perlman Place are below: the first is from the day demolition was initiated in 2010, the second image is from Saturday.

The pair is followed by several of my other favorite images from this recent visit to Baltimore. I will share other images from Washington, D.C. later, but more images from both locations can be viewed on flickr.

Perlman Place – April 16, 2010
Perlman Place, Baltimore

Perlman Place – November 19, 2011
Perlman Place, After City-Initiated Demolition


Enter to Worship



Brick Harvester

Walther Hall, Man, Cats

On Her Stoop

Y & M Chinese Food Carry Out

Laundromat, Light, Man Leading

Metro Grocery Carry Out

Cleveland, Ohio

Throughout October I looked forward to my recent trip to Cleveland, Ohio. Despite regularly visiting the city throughout the 1990s, I hadn’t spent any time there in a decade. I was anxious to see how some of the neighborhoods hardest hit by deindustrialization (and other critical social dynamics) had fared since earlier visits. With that in mind, I mainly focused on the East Side and the Cuyahoga Valley, although I covered considerable ground in a few busy days.

A handful of my favorite images from the visit are below, and additional images are available on my flickr account.

Special thanks go to Jeremy Shondrick for the company and wayfaring advice.

Jack's Video Sports Bar

Piles, Cuyahoga River Bridge

Former Randall Park Mall Entrance

Rabbit Yard

No Road

Home of the Vikings

Early Methodist Church Photograph

The Pit Bar-B-Q

The Palace

The End of the Block

A Short Visit to Lubbock, Texas

I just returned from a visit to Lubbock, Texas for the opening of my show at the Texas Tech University School of Art on September 2. While my schedule at TTU kept me busy, I was fortunate enough to have some free time to explore the city along with the Director of Landmark Arts, Joe Arredondo, and TTU MFA photography students Sarah Jamison and Tom Turner. Here are a handful of favorite images from the visit. As always, additional images from the trip can be seen on flickr.

Oil Pump at Night

The Corner

Robert Bruno's Steel House

At Night on the Edge of Lubbock, Texas

Lubbock Main Center

At Night

The United States Steel South Works

There’s been a renewed interest in the site of the former United States Steel South Works following Dave Matthews Band Caravan‘s use of the area. Thinking readers might enjoy a little history of the site, I’ve edited a few excerpts from my master’s thesis on the development (and decline) of the site and posted them here along with some supporting materials.

Development of USS South Works Site, 1869-2003

Compiled and aligned maps from USGS, Department of War, USS and other sources

In the mid-1800s, Chicago’s iron foundries were located on the north side of the Chicago River, but as the city expanded and demand for metal products boomed, iron and steelmakers sought space to spread out. While some business moved north, many eventually made their way to the Calumet area, which was not incorporated as a part of southeastern Chicago until the late 1880s. Businesses moved south in part due to the efforts of the Calumet Canal and Dock Company, which promoted the region as near industrial paradise. Claimed benefits of the region included lower taxes, access to rail and water traffic, and recent improvements by the Army Corps of Engineers. Among those companies lured were Pullman, which created the town of Pullman in 1881, and the North Chicago Rolling Mill Company, which bought the future site of the South Works in 1880.

The North Chicago Rolling Mill Company was founded in 1857 by Captain E.B. Ward to satisfy demand for railroad rails that was fueled by western expansion and a general boom in railroad construction. The company came to prominence in 1865 as the first company to roll steel rails rather than the much less durable iron rails. Despite a number of improvements to the North Works, Orrin W. Potter, President of the Rolling Mill Company, and other business partners realized that the North Works was too cramped to meet ballooning demand for steel rails. As such, they needed to create another works, so on March 28, 1880, the Rolling Mill Company bought 73 acres of land with 1,500 feet of frontage on the Calumet River and 2,500 feet on Lake Michigan and broke ground for what would become the first integrated rail mill in the world.

After acquisition of the marsh and beach land, the Rolling Mill Company began adding to the littoral transport of sediment that was trapped by the new government “improvements” with “great quantities of slag and refuse from their mills, on the shore and in the lake along it thereby artificially increasing the natural advance of the shore line.” By 1882, more than 30 acres of land had been added to the site.

This was the beginning of a long phase of expansions of the site that was conducted by a variety of owners, including United States Steel, until the late 1920s. Over the years, hot slag, granulated cinders and dirt were slowly poured into the site using small railroad cars. The location of the types of deposits is only partially known. Records of the deposits were regularly collected and noted by the site owners, but (at least surviving) maps were not cumulative for the process, so only spotty records of the types and times of fill exist.

Infill, 1919
An Illinois Steel Company map showing infill on the north end of the “reclamation” area, 1919

Crib Wall
Detail of a crib wall used during the infill process, 1914

By 1933, USS had completed infill activities and had nearly saturated the now 576 acre site with buildings without establishing a coherent plan for expansion. While the South Works would operate for another sixty years, this design problem would be a major factor in its undoing. While an attempt to “reclaim” an additional 194 acres from Lake Michigan was floated in 1963, the expansion was never made, and investments became increasingly sporadic as the global steel trade underwent extreme changes.

By the early 1980s, plant closure was certain after a major planned expansion was cancelled. Within 22 years starting in 1970, the Works changed from a major steel operation with a rated annual steel capacity of over seven million tons and more than 10,000 employees to a plant with a capacity of only 44,000 tons and 690 employees at its closing in April 1992. Massive demolitions were well underway.

1983 to 1994
USGS aerial photographs of the South Works from 1983 and 1994 showing massive demolition of site structures

After closure, the site continued to be fiscally productive for the company through slip leasing, utility negotiations and other activities, but it slowly gained its derelict appearance despite EPA activities, the proposed Solo Cup plant and the park service expansion along the coast.

United States Steel South Works Ore Bin Panorama
Looking into the north ore bins, 2003

Today, the most prominent structures are the ore bin walls, which have massive holes in them from the crane removal process. Wildlife has thrived in the interiors of these ore bins, with the concrete pad providing easy development of a wetlands and many of the supporting flora and fauna. When walking the site in 2003 and 2004, I saw or saw evidence of animals as diverse as horned owls, deer and foxes.

USS has experimented various plans for the site over the last twenty years with little luck, although it looks like the USS/McCaffery Interests current development plan may be realized in some capacity. Whether the development looks anything like the current proposal is anybody’s guess.

South Works Development Pitch
A previous development plan

The current promotional video for redevelopment

    Let me know if you’d like a citation for any of this material. The records of USS, the EPA and a variety of local historical societies were helpful in defining the history outlined above. Additionally, Kenneth Warren’s Big Steel: The First Century of the United States Steel Corporation, 1901-2001 and trade publications from the day were invaluable.

Vancouver, British Columbia

I just returned from a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia for the International Visual Sociology Association‘s annual meeting. While there, I had an opportunity to learn more about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside thanks to Naomi Bartz, Kelly Nairn and some of my own exploring. The area is the location of a major redevelopment effort, particularly in regards to its high number of boarding houses and SROs. If you’re interested in learning more about the area and its housing issues, the City of Vancouver Social Development Department has several interesting reports, including this section on the Single Room Accommodation By-law.

Below, the first image is of the neighborhood’s new mixed-income Woodward’s redevelopment, complete with its staged photograph of the Gastown Riots. A few images of the Downtown Eastside SROs (and the clubs on their first floors) follow, after which I’ve included a few of my favorite images from throughout the city. As always, you can view more of my photographs from the trip on flickr.

Inside the Woodward's Redevelopment, Stan Douglas's

Vancouver's Favorite Country Music Pub (and SRO)

Looking East on Hastings

Regent Hotel, Union Market, Hastings Street


Other Vancouver Photographs



Military Housing

Vancouver Tunnel Skate Park

Save-On Meats


Albuquerque, New Mexico and Pajarito Mesa

Last week I flew to New Mexico to attend the amazing Review Santa Fe (about which I may write later), and I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a day in Albuquerque before heading northeast. The highlight of my brief visit to Albuquerque was spending a little time in a colonia to the southwest of town on the Pajarito Mesa.

Due to a variety of legal issues, the 400 family colonia has no public utilities, including running water, electricity or direct access to school busing for children. Despite this immigrant community living on the mesa for approximately 25 years, it only recently received a well to fill portable water tanks. Residents previously had to drive several miles off of the mesa for potable water. The new well offers 1,000 gallons of water for $10.

Additional information about the community can be found here. A few of my photographs of the area are immediately below, followed by others from Albuquerque and its edges.

Warning: Purchasing Property on the Pajarito Mesa May be Illegal

Filling the Water Tank

Colonia Pajarito Mesa


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Residential Building

In the Dust, Out West

In the Dairy Lot

Swamp Cooler Service

A Road Through the Scrap Piles

Mt. Calvary Cemetery

As always, additional images are available on flickr.