Almost a full week had passed since I first explored the brick factory and though, I had not been able to see it, I could not get the place out of my mind. My imagination swirled with ideas and projects with what I wanted to do, but I needed to be prepared when the time finally came. This after all, was in West Jackson and though I may have been fine to go to the factory during daylight hours the night was an entirely different story. West Jackson was notorious for being one of the city's crime ridden areas and I had to play things very smart if I did not want to have my equipment stolen or worse. I decided in order to work within the darkness, I needed to embrace its cold, empty allure.
The night had finally come when I was able to go back to the factory and enter into its dark chambers once more. I made sure I gathered everything I needed: camera, steel wool, tripod, lighter, black hoodie, gum. Everything was in place for me to explore the secrets hidden within this massive crypt. I decided to leave an hour before sunset in order to properly orient myself with my surroundings and to do a few mock shots with the camera in order to attain the best possible perspectives.
Before I left the factory during my initial exploration, I made sure to geotag the location so I could easily find it yet again, and so that evening I pulled up my screenshot and punched it into Google Maps. The adventure had begun. I took a left off of State Street down one of Fondren's neighborhoods in accordance with my GPS, and within a short amount of time I had gone from one of the most bustling sections of Jackson to one of the most run down, and impoverished areas in the city. I was amazed at how quickly the transition occurred and it gave me an entirely new perspective on my city.
After a certain amount of driving I looked back behind me and off in the distance I could see familiar landmarks I looked at everyday, but from a whole new angle. University Hospital, St. Dominic's, even a few of the buildings in downtown could be seen from my vantage point. These common, mundane sights which I got to see on a daily basis must have seemed inobtainable to the people who lived in West Jackson. The buildings were not far, yet to this area's inhabitants they must have seemed like a world away. My goal was to be a link between the two worlds, and illuminate the existences of both for the good of Jackson.
By the time the afternoon light had just begun to wane, I arrived at the factory. Using the location I scouted out during my first visit, I parked my car in between the tall grasses to keep my valuables inside concealed. Donning my black attire, I quickly gathered all my materials then made my way to the factory entrance. Getting in was no simple task as I had tripped several times over broken sections of fence and numerous bricks. At one point I had almost fallen face first into a protruding iron rod, and after this near scare I made sure to be diligent with my foot placement and what was in the path ahead.
Finally, after a few precarious near-falls I had arrived at the mouth of this chasm. There was still enough daylight left to survey the area, so I decided to explore the upper level in order to determine what shots I could create, and where. The first observation was how epic the staircase leading to the second floor appeared. Many of the stairs were weather worn, yet remarkably stable and the walls leading upward had parts of their plaster peeling off with splotches of graffiti in some of the less damaged sections. This would give me a really cool urban-esque setup for some lightpainting, and as my mind raced with setting up the scene I failed to pay attention to what lie ahead as I entered into the second floor's chambers.
"HOLY SHIT!!" I yelled, as and object whizzed right past the left side of my face. I knew I needed to approach this area with caution, though I wasn't expecting any projectiles coming toward me. The "danger scenarios" I kept playing in my mind involved me laying the Kung Fu Smackdown on some druggie coming down from a hard bender. "Coo-hoo-ooo. Coo-hoo-ooo" Turning in the direction of the sound, and my would be attacker I watched as they flapped their wings and flew off into the horizon. "Dang pidgeon..." I muttered as made my way further into the second floor.
Aside from the resident local birds, there did not appear to be any other signs of habitation. Much like the first floor of the factory the central areas had been largely stripped of all materials and were laid bare. The only signs of recent human activity came from the graffiti plastered on several of the walls, though there was no telling how long they had been there. The second floor consisted of two very large central rooms and at least twelve smaller individual units. Two of these units particularly stuck out to me; one contained a very large amount of graffiti sprayed onto the walls and the second looked like it was once an old bathroom with broken glass scattered about the floor.
Having completed my survey, and with darkness falling, it was time to begin. The stairs were my first scene and I positioned my tripod at an angle so the camera would be looking straight up the steps in my direction. I took out my whisk, added the steel wool, closed the shutter, lit the fire the started spinning. I experimented with several different shots, each being maneuvered to have sparks rain down onto the descending steps. After taking six photos and nearly burning my right arm (thank goodness I was wearing a long sleeve jacket) I had acquired the image I wanted.