Thursday, March 17, 2011
PhotoHunt 256: Machine(s)
Machines are all around us these days, so it really wouldn't have been a difficult task to snap a shot of any random machine that most everyone comes into contact with on a daily basis. Keeping that in mind, it really made me wonder why this specific picture is the one that automatically came to mind for this week's PhotoHunt. I think part of the reason may have been the idea of wanting to know more about what "it" actually is, and the other part may have to do with the role that it played once upon a time in everything that has grown up around all it. Both reasons actually leave a lot for thought on some level, so I can only assume that is why I hadn't completely forgotten about this photo altogether.
Have you figured out what it is yet? Here's a better representation of the machine as a whole.
Still a little lost? It's ok, just keep reading.
For me, I think the most interesting aspect of these photos, aside from the amount of information I uncovered just to satisfy my curiosity about what exactly I was looking at, came from the meaning in the composition. If you look at the top photo, you'll see the old 'Lucky Strike' cigarette factory peeking through the structure - a direct result of it's forgotten surroundings. In the photo that follows, there are a few things of note. There is a tiered image of structures, quite possibly reflecting in chronologically descending order, with the machine that is the subject of the photo at the top; an old canal, whose primary usefulness has been all but discarded, supporting both the machine, as well as the modern skyline; and then, of course, there is that lone bird in the photo standing on the water of the old canal harkening back to a scene that those who were here before any of this engineering may have seen. Through looking and learning about everything in this photo, I've thought about all of the amazing things that our machines create - cities, states, and countries, but I've also thought a lot about those who have created everything leading up to our machines.
So what is my machine? The machine in my photo is an old train trestle drawbridge, known as a single-leaf bascule bridge, standing over a section of the James River and the Kanawha Canal at Great Shiplock Park in Richmond, VA. It's said that sketches of these bascule bridges have been found in history as early as the 1500s, in notes by Leonardo diVinci. The top shot shows you the counter weight inside the great big box that used to pull up the train trestle so the boats coming up the canal could transport freight to the warehouses along the canal into the city, and the rest of the state. This canal was surveyed and planned by George Washington in the late 1700s, and construction was finally completed in the 1850s as part of Washington's plan to secure Virginia's economic success, which in turn secured the City of Richmond's economic success. By 1877, the flooding and the Civil War had done a number on the success of the canal and it's funding, and the railroads eclipsed the efficiency of the canal system. Rail was put in along the river by the canal to serve the same purpose of importing and exporting goods, like tobacco, to and from the many warehouses that sprung up along the route during the early years of the city. The bridge you see above was built in 1930 by the Virginia Bridge and Iron Company for use by the Norfolk & Western Railway. Though the track may still see sine occasional use, the bridge has not been raised in many years to accommodate the canal beneath.
Through digging around and discovering 'new' things in order to properly identify the very cool machine in my photo, what I can't help but notice is how our human history is as interconnected as parts of a machine, constantly working together to achieve a purpose. We are most likely to take for granted all that came before us to achieve that from which we take, create, and make new in order to help form our future, but like cogs on a wheel, everything we do now as a "human machine" is a result of someone or something that came before. So, though we may at times think of ourselves as useless parts of a whole, we certainly cannot help but know that everything we do now will most certainly affect the foundation that our future is built on. And, much like the evolution of our industrial machines that depend on the function of their counterparts, we wouldn't be nearly as functional or productive in our own evolution without the support of each other .