Western Salt Works, Chula Vista California
In November of 1996 while driving around California on a magazine assignment I came across the Western Salt Works at the southern end of San Diego Bay. From the beginning I’d been interested in what writer Bram Dijkstra called cathedrals in the landscape – magnificent ruins left from another time that litter the backroads and deserts of California. Western Salt was a perfect example: a working anachronism in use continuously since 1871.
Clean fall light was breaking across the clapboard face of the factory as I pulled to the side of Bay Boulevard. A traveling carnival was breaking down Halloween attractions across the street. In the distance, a bank of clouds was quietly receding over the Pacific and the only sounds were the metallic clangs of the carnies and the rush of unseen cars driving in the distance – it was a moment out of time – it could have been 1996, 1956 or 1926.
In the back of my Jeep I’d packed a Toyo Omega G 4X5 with a couple dozen sheets of Kodak TMX – good professional-grade B&W film. I shot the street elevation using a 210mm Fuji f/5.6 on a single sheet of film – no back-up – at 1/8th of a second, f/22.5 using a R25 red filter (negative was a little thin). I was also using the straight-ahead style belonging to my early photography heroes Walker Evans and Edward Weston.