The Mill

Yesterday, I photographed a closed-down mill. I have wanted to photograph the outside for months now, just haven’t gotten around to it. The mill opened in 1906 and was closed in 1963. It was a roller mill that produced flour, meal, and feed. I pulled up to the mill yesterday morning. There was a car outside and one of the side doors was open. I walked up and someone was working inside. I asked if it would be okay to take some photographs and the person said, “Sure. Do you want to photograph the inside too?”

Nikon D800, history, mill, photography, industry, jennifer koe

***Nikon D800, history, mill, photography, industry, jennifer koe

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Nikon D800, history, mill, photography, industry, jennifer koe

***Nikon D800, history, mill, photography, industry, jennifer koe

***Nikon D800, history, mill, photography, industry, jennifer koe

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I am always a little shocked when people invite me into a space that has limited accessibility. I have been invited into closed buildings on a few occasions, as well as people's homes and yards, private spaces ... I suppose it just makes me wonder what it is about me that says I can be trusted in a 4-story closed down mill by myself with lots of heavy machinery. I'm not complaining, it just makes me wonder if the same permission would have been given if I lacked this one piece of equipment: a camera. It's as if there is some kind of internal drive to document and capture relics and realities, past and present.

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I have been invited into closed buildings on a few occasions, as well as people’s homes and yards, private spaces … I’m not complaining, it just makes me wonder if the same permission would have been given if I lacked this one piece of equipment: a camera. It’s as if there is some kind of internal drive to document and capture relics and realities, past and present.

I had free range of the entire mill for about an hour. It has 4 floors. It’s solid, but it’s old. Shooting was a bit tricky because the place is like a maze of narrow spaces and heavy machinery. The train-tracks are a stone’s throw away, and when I was on the upper levels, the building quaked as the trains passed. The dust and dirt didn’t bother me, but the trains shook me up just a little, especially on the top floor, a tiny little room accessed by a rickety ladder. I could see through the wooden slats of the floor beneath me, and I just sort of crossed my fingers when the train came by and the walls vibrated and the windows knocked around in their frames.

My favorite spot in the mill was a room downstairs, just off the main area with its machines, traces of grease, warnings, and cobwebs. I was delighted when I walked into it and discovered an empty dancehall … complete with a disco ball.

Nikon D800, photography, history, industry, jennifer koe

 

62 thoughts on “The Mill

    • Thanks! It is a very interesting structure–that was what first drew me to it. All the different “parts” of the building. I was happy to get to see the inside of it! πŸ™‚

  1. Haunting and gorgeous! And a warning to remember: GRAIN DUST IS LIKE EXPLOSIVES!! Also, I love the dancehall with the disco ball. That is a story waiting to happen. Oops, I still have to finish the first one…..

    • The dust signs were on every floor. I believe people used to have to carry “dust cards” if they worked around it, and they had to have physicals every year. Toxic dust goes back to the 30’s–that is when they started to create laws and regulate it. Didn’t do much good, though. The disco ball was such a surprise! Especially after four floors of serious industry. It was comic relief. πŸ™‚

  2. What an experience with such great photos. The dust grain warning shot jumped out at me from stories Better Half has of growing up on a farm, siloes, and all that went with that life.

    • Thanks, Richard! Yes, it was very cramped–no space wasted in this place, and every space has a distinct purpose, there is no such thing as “leisurely space” in the mill, with the exception of the dancehall, but back in the day I am sure it served a business purpose too.

    • Thank you! Yes, the camera can act as a vehicle into realms and realities that are unfamiliar, as well as explorations of ones that are familiar, but buried subconsciously. It’s like having Freud in a box. πŸ˜€

  3. Jennifer, this is a great collection of photos and I’m so glad you shared the story along with it. I particularly like #2, #4, and #10 (had to use numbers; don’t know what the pictures are of). Disco ball … huh, maybe it was a Footloose kinda thing πŸ™‚

    • Hey, bucky, thank you! #10 was one of my favs too, and I’m not sure why … it really has no specific meaning. Sometimes I just like the way something looks, lol.

    • Appreciate it! It was really interesting and educational. I have been inside factories before (my parents both worked in factories) but it had been a very long time, and it really struck a chord with me.

  4. Having worked as a guide in an old roller mill that was preserved in a state park, I really enjoyed this series. Old machinery is always photogenic to me. But the disco ball is a real find. That little touch of kitsch brings a Route 66 flavor.

    • Hi Scott, thank you for taking the time! I’m happy you enjoyed it. Old machinery is interesting, I agree. Haha, the disco ball was like the icing on the cake! πŸ™‚

  5. What a great set of images… I love all the “cold” ones πŸ™‚ You are brave for venturing in… deserted places creep out to a certain extent… maybe I had an incident that I can’t remember πŸ™‚ lol

    • Well, I am terrified of flying, so don’t feel bad! I have to fly in about a month and I am already feeling anxious about it. I think I may have a phobia of heights, as I do not care much for elevators, either. Really, it is the ascension and descension that bothers me the most, I think. Just creeps me out!

    • Thanks, Sara! Yes, I also love the colors of the mill. That drew me to it as well. I am not sure if it was all built at the same time or if certain parts were added later. It is an interesting structure!

  6. Wonderfully wonderful! I would love exploring a place like that. Once I explored a Mediterranian complex built by Pablo Escobar in Doradal, Colombia. I walked around for two hours taking photos. I did not see a single person and I had a creepy feeling the entire time. My hair ready to stand at attention at a moments notice. In one of the photo of the main reception area, I guess, there is/was a window in an upper floor. In the original version, long gone, I would swear there was an image of a man’s face. When I got back to my hotel some helpful persons pointed out to two waiting policemen, with automatic weapons, that yes that is the gringo in question. They asked why the photos? My wife asked if it was illegal to take photos and they said no. They said they were wondering if I was a terrorist. I said no, but I am from Alabama. You can find whats left of those photos on my bolg sidebar. Look for Doradal.

  7. Love the closeup details, and the dance hall is sublime! Standing still or poking around in the shrubbery will virtually get you arrested anywhere. But carry a lump of camera, or walk a dog, and voila, not a criminal, just a nutter!

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