On a typical cloudy November day, the smoke generated from the stacks along the harbour is the same shade of gray as the sky that looms heavy above. Distinguishing the billows of smoke from the broad clouds quickly becomes impossible. From the elevated portion of Burlington Street one is provided with an unobstructed view of blast furnaces, abandoned picket lines and heaps of metal off-cuts in every shade of corrosion, connected by a seamless web of weed choked rail-lines and aging asphalt. A Canadian Valley Of Ashes separating the continuous hum of motors on the highway and Hamilton's re-emerging city centre. Confirmation of how the city came to be known as Steeltown.
Lying just outside the shadow of the conurbation known as the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), Hamilton was established at the western most edge of Lake Ontario, positioning itself in the centre of what would become the heart of industrialized Canada. To the uninitiated, Hamilton appears to share near identical characteristics with most other cities: defined by geography, distinct neighborhoods and a Main Street that bisects its centre. It's uniqueness lies in it's 14 Industrial Sectors that divide the city from the lake. Over the last century these industrial areas have hosted some of the most influential manufacturing corporations in the world, such as Westinghouse, Procter and Gamble, Studebaker, Otis Elevator and U.S. Steel.
In 2014 – spurred by a report that one of the largest steel mills in the city would be ceasing operations at the close of the year, ending an era in the city's history – I returned to Hamilton for the first time in 6 years. In contrast to Vancouver (where I was living at the time) and whose skyline of glittering, high-rise condos is relatively recent, Hamilton's roots are firmly established with a strong sense of identity and community. For several years Hamilton has been part of a larger transformation that's occurring in many cities within North America's rust belt, from a city centred on manufacturing and industry to a city with an uncertain future. This project is meant as a visual accompaniment to the city that exists in my mind, a reconciliation between the place that can no longer be visited and the current city that is undergoing a major transformation.