“Knives” was a project made over several years, using documentary photography to trace the shifting relationships between masculinity, myth, and violence in a rural town whose economic base was eviscerated by globalization.
The cutlery industry formed the economic backbone of New York’s Hudson Valley for over 150 years, until the Schrade knife factory abruptly moved production to China in 2004, leaving 500 men and women out of work. Subsequently, the town’s maximum security prison, Eastern Correctional Facility, became the largest employer in the area. Yet it remains shielded from the wider community by layers of secrecy. As businesses continued to close in the decade that followed, drug abuse, mental disorders, and rare cancers have become more widespread.
“Knives” operates as two intertwined stories: one, a typological study of knives crafted in the region since the rise of the cutlery industry. This provides connective tissue to the other subject, which deals in the realities of the local community, both within the prison and without. The project serves as a microcosm of the larger issues facing the United States, which is grappling with the effects of automation and outsourcing, cuts in services, and the rise of identity politics all over the country.
If you’d like to see more work on this and similar topics, we’d recommend the following previous features: a review of Peter Van Agtmael’s book Buzzing at the Sill, an urgent new work that looks head-on into the country’s deepening fractures; The Auburn System, a grim but important project on the relationship between a town and the nearby prison; and Thy Neighbor: Searching for Reconciliation in Today’s America, a series on the realities of life in Tennessee after the 2016 election.