28
Apr
09

The Donora Digital Collection

April 2009

 

A shot of the Wire Works Acid Plant from across the Monongahela River nd

 

Unknown photographer
A shot of the Wire Works Acid Plant from across the Monongahela River
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

 

I stumbled across this digital collection quite by accident when researching something entirely different and was amazed by some of the powerful images that reflect life in a Pennsylvanian industrial town. Sadly, the The Donora Digital Collection website is now no longer online.

The last photograph is one of the most painful and emotive I have seen in a long time. Man in suit underneath train

Sitting in a suit under a train this photograph says nothing but everything about this man’s life. He sits in the dirt, crumpled suit, dirty shirt, filthy hands, head bowed, one armed with his left suit sleeve hanging limply at his side, eyes daubed with dark rings staring straight at the camera under glowering lids. This is me this is who I am! he declares. Sitting in the dirt in a suit under a train.

Perhaps he was a odd job worker in the town, but he doesn’t wear a labourers clothes and the suit is incongruous with his dirty hand. Perhaps he was a hobo (A hobo is a migrant worker or homeless vagrant, especially one who is impoverished) hopping from town to town on the railcars hoping not to get caught. From the photograph it looks like the 1920s. The dark shadow of the train looms menacingly over him and two steel poles lay abandoned by the tracks. I can’t make out what the writing says directly above him and I am unsure whether it is written on the side of the train or on the photograph itself.

But it is his text… the marking an anonymous epitaph for his life: “I was here, I lived.”

And I thank God he did.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image

 

 

Looking toward the Zinc Works in Donora, PA from Webster, PA, 1948

 

Unknown photographer
Looking toward the Zinc Works in Donora, PA from Webster, PA
1948
Gelatin silver print

 

Open Hearth and Rod Yard nd

 

Unknown photographer
Open Hearth and Rod Yard
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Wire workers in mill near large cables, August, 29, 1925

 

Unknown photographer
Wire workers in mill near large cables, August, 29, 1925
1925
Gelatin silver print

 

Acid storage area nd

 

Unknown photographer
Acid storage area
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

 

“The month of October, 2008 marks the 60th Anniversary of a 1948 Donora smog incident that claimed the lives of at least 21 people and sickened thousands. All signs pointed towards the emissions from the world’s largest zinc mill and a weather inversion that encompassed the geographical horseshoe of the Mon Valley. Sixty years later a museum opened on McKean Avenue to preserve and share the unique history of Donora, PA and to celebrate the clean air movement that followed. This Digital Collection is the site of a special exhibit devoted to the arduous process of digitally preserving and cataloging hundreds of the primary source materials that have survived the test of time. These materials provide special insight into industrial and social aspects of American life in southwestern Pennsylvania and date from the beginning of Donora at the turn of the 20th century up to the current period.”

Text from the The Donora Digital Collection website [Online] Cited 24/04/2009 no longer available online

 

Workers among huge gear mechanisms nd

 

Unknown photographer
Workers among huge gear mechanisms
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

Workers and crane inside the Wire Works, July 14, 1925

 

Unknown photographer
Workers and crane inside the Wire Works, July 14, 1925
1925
Gelatin silver print

 

Man in suit underneath train nd

 

Unknown photographer
Man in suit underneath train
Nd
Gelatin silver print

 

 

The Donora Digital Collection
Donora, PA: From its Origins to the Nationwide Case for Clean Air

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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