this commanding image of technological utopia became a monument to the transcendant power of industrial production in the early modern age

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Criss-Crossed Conveyors, River Rouge Plant, Ford Motor Company / Charles Sheeler (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1883–1965 Dobbs Ferry, New York)

“In 1927, Charles Sheeler photographed the Ford Motor Company’s enormous River Rouge Plant. His most famous print depicts two starkly angular conveyor belts that transported coal into the power plant. In the background piercing the sky are eight tall, narrow smokestacks. Sheeler’s striking image revealed the might of Detroit’s industry, and did so by portraying only one small section of an industrial complex that consisted of nineteen separate buildings covering more than two square miles. The Rouge included a manmade harbor for Great Lakes coal and iron barges, the largest foundry in the world, and ninety-two miles of railroad track.”

Thomas J. Sugrue, The origins of urban crisis

River_Rouge_aerial-libraryofcongress

“A realistic painter as well as a photographer, Sheeler rarely failed to uncover harmonious coherence in the forms of indigeneous American architecture. His series of photographs of the Ford plant near Detroit was commissioned by the automobile company through an advertising agency. Widely reproduced in Europe and America in the 1920s, this commanding image of technological utopia became a monument to the transcendant power of industrial production in the early modern age.” via Metropolitan Museum of Art / ”During the 1920s Sheeler found success and recognition as a commercial photographer. In 1927 he was hired by a prominent Philadelphia advertising firm, N. W. Ayer & Son, to shoot the Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge auto plant located outside of Detroit as part of a promotional campaign for the new Model A. The immense facility covered eleven hundred acres and was heralded as the largest industrial complex in the world. Sheeler photographed the factory for about six weeks, from late October until the end of November; the result was a series of thirty-two prints.” via National Gallery of Art