Industrial Forms

Port of Portland rail yard and grain elevator

My explorations of the industrial lands in north Portland uncovered some haunting images as the mist lingered for hours. I could photograph rail yards and shipping facilities forever, and the Port of Portland had some tasty visual morsels. I love the forms, the functionality, and total commercial nature of these places. They have one purpose, and that is to ship goods from one place to another. They represent commerce in its least packaged and purest form. You can see other photos I have taken of industrial forms on my web site. I also have documented a number of industrial sites in Portland on my blog.

This particular image is of the port’s Rivergate Industrial Park. The port’s web site reports Portland is the largest wheat export gateway for the country. (Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

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Portland’s industrial landscapes

Portland seems to be associated with Nike, Portlandia, Intel, and hipsters in the national imagination. But for those of us who live here, the city itself tells a story of international shipping, truck manufacturing, rail traffic, shipbuilding, and other heavy industries. And still, this Portland never seems to make a blip on the national consciousness. Well, here are a couple of pictures of the Portland I see every day.

Seattle industrial typology study

I have always been fascinated by the forms that our modern building systems display. Exhaust, air, heating, and cooling systems are about as basic systems as one finds, and they usually have a place of prominence on rooftops, unadorned and standing like metallic animals and sculptures. Bernd and Hilla Becher called these forms typologies and made a career highlighting them in their master prints and publications. Check them out if you have never heard of them. They, more than any photographers in a long while, have influenced how I see the world and how I think about the ways we construct our physical environment to suit our economic system. (Click on each photograph to see a larger photo on a separate picture page.)