Photographs by Serge Hambourg; Harry N. Abrams; 108 pages.
Mill buildings, it has been said, are as essential a part of the classic New England landscape as are mountains and rocky fields, and as basic to the region’s history as Pilgrims and Kennedys. Serge Hambourg, a French photographer, started taking pictures of old New England mill and factory buildings in 1982, shortly after he moved to this country. Ninety of his elegant color photographs have been collected in a volume that both documents and celebrates its subject matter.
He has shot mills inside and out. There are whitewashed clapboard buildings that with their wide-plank floors and wavy-paned windows look like the city dweller’s dream of a country hideaway; there are heavy granite edifices with squinting clerestories; there are the familiar long, severe brick buildings alongside turbid Massachusetts rivers. Some of the interiors still contain their old belt-run machinery, preserved as museum pieces; others are cleaned and emptied and have been photographed to reveal structure and space. The pictures compose an unwritten history of the New England mill (and the captions are very good too). Two thoughtful essays, by the architectural historian Kenneth Breisch and the writer Noel Perrin, explore the history and cultural place of the New England mill.
It is amazing what a great deal of beauty industrialization brought to—and left behind in—the towns and cities of New England.