In his series Textiles, New York City-based photographer Christopher Payne unveils the hidden and buzzing world of textile mills and factories across America, highlighting the endless rows of steel machinery, brightly coloured yarns and mountains of wool.
The images deliver satisfyingly repetitive patterns, as Payne picks out the architectural symmetry of the internal spaces; something he's renowned for. But what's refreshing about this particular project is that he often includes the factory workers within the shots; revealing the skill and expertise behind everything that's produced. It's a step in a new direction for Payne, as his usual work focuses on the documentation of the obsolete; instead of this celebration of craftsmanship and small-scale manufacturing that are persevering in the face of global competition and evolutions in industrial processes.
Trained as an architect, Payne is fascinated by design, assembly, and the built form. His first book, New York’s Forgotten Substations: The Power Behind the Subway, offered dramatic, rare views of the behemoth machines that are hidden behind modest facades in New York City. His second book, Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, which includes an essay by the renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks, was the result of a seven-year survey of America’s vast and largely shuttered state mental institutions.
Payne’s new book, North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City, explores an uninhabited island of ruins in the East River. Payne’s photographs invoke the former grandeur of the site over different seasons, capturing hints of buried streets and infrastructure now reclaimed by nature, while also providing a unique glimpse into a city’s future without people.