In this era of service jobs and office work, most of us have never been inside a factory. Several decades of global outsourcing and a flood of cheap imports have decimated American manufacturing and hollowed out once thriving communities. Today, we have little idea where, or how, the shirt on our back is made. As we become increasingly immersed in the digital realm, we further lose touch with our analog roots. Yet, we still live in a physical world and surround ourselves with material things. If you look hard enough, you’ll even find that some of these things still are made in America.
In 2010, I discovered an old yarn mill in Maine that reminded me of places that I photographed for my book Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals. While most such places had long been abandoned, this mill was fully operational, a scene from the past miraculously coexisting with the present.
I returned to the mill several times and, from conversations with employees, learned of other mills, many still functioning as they had for decades with vintage equipment now prized for producing the “genuine article.”
This story appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of MILIEU. To read the complete story or to see all photos, visit the MILIEU Newsstand to purchase this issue in print or visit Zinio.com to purchase this issue in digital format.
TEXT AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY CHRISTOPHER PAYNE