This was a commission from Fortune magazine called “Hard Times Come to Steeltown,” from 1977. The steel mills had been closing. They had not modernized, and could not keep up with foreign competition. These steel workers are being thrown out of work; this was 15 years before NAFTA was signed.
And I can't help but look at these pictures today without thinking of the economic situation in these towns, in these cities 40 years later—that these steel mills have not reopened.
I think I avoided, in my work, overt political stances, but throughout Uncommon Places I'm thinking about the political ramifications of these cultural phenomena.
I found that, often, political stances oversimplified the complexities of the world. And I wanted to be able to address those complexities. I think the Steeltown work is more overtly dealing with immediate economic crisis, and, therefore, more overtly political. It's hard for me to separate the political from the cultural.