Jul 22, 2014

Redcliff Pressed Brick Co. Interior: Part 1

I find the history of the clay industry around Medicine Hat genuinely fascinating. I think it's because I realized as I was photographing historic sites that I was capturing the tail end of what was once the city's largest industry. More to the point, I've witnessed the rebirth of the clay district, no longer as an industry, but as a cultural landmark - something that really kicked off when Medalta reopened as a museum. 

The Redcliff Pressed Brick Company is an abandoned site in Redcliff, Alberta, but it's still known as the birthplace of I-XL, a brick company that saw tremendous success as it expanded throughout the 20th century. The site hasn't been in operation since 2004, and I previously photographed the area before I knew all that much about it. 

I was contacted by the Sissons family, who have been in the brick industry since the Redcliff Pressed Brick Company was founded in 1912, and was asked about doing a shoot. I had the opportunity to photograph the interior of the Redcliff site, which is now mostly just a few of the original tunnel kilns, and I happily agreed. 

The reason for the sudden interest is because the site is going to be partially demolished and transformed into a park. While the former Redcliff Pressed Brick Company is captivating in some respects, it's also in a poor state and a few sections seem ready to collapse. The park transformation is a way of marking the history of the location and also cleaning up the site.

There's no denying the beauty of these old kilns. The way the light floods through some of the cracks, the textures of the brick, the arches themselves, etc. are naturally dramatic. Industrial ruins always provide so many clues about the life of the location before it was abandoned, so I find there's almost something romantic about the silence that engulfs them. It was a privilege to capture and share this landmark, and I'm glad I had the chance to document it before it was too late.

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