While the mega-development of Brooklyn’s famous Domino Sugar Factory is almost underway, it still remains to be a favorite abandoned place among urban explorers and photographers. It closed officially to the public in 2004, but there are plenty of stunning photographs to keep us in awe of its abandoned appeal. One such photographer, Paul Raphaelson, was allowed a look inside in 2013 by the building’s owners, Two Trees, resulting in a series of stunning photographs that have been published in his new book Brooklyn’s Sweet Ruin: Relics and Stories of the Domino Sugar Refinery this past November.
Raphaelson’s photos reveal the inside of the 135-year-old industrial relic before it was gutted and slated for demolition, making him the last photographer given access to the factory. While we were allowed in 2013 to take video and photography, and the public was given a peek into the sugar warehouse via artist Kara Walker’s sugar-coated sphinx, Raphaelson’s images offer unique views and meticulously taken photographs bringing almost to life the decaying factory.
The book is a compilation of Raphaelson’s photos– his first monograph. Created in collaboration with architectural historian Matthew Postal, PhD, not only does it feature all of his photos, but it also offers an in-depth history of the factory, drawing from historic images and maps, newspaper and magazine articles, corporate documents, unpublished manuscripts, and interviews with former refinery employees. Also included is an essay by Raphaelson detailing what it means to live in and photograph post-industrial America.
“I wanted to show the ruin as its majestic self, and also as a lens through which to see the history of the place and its people … I found myself working in the abstract, seeing how much chaos I could allow into the frame, while still making a coherent picture. The visual density and confusion of the place invited this kind of formal experiment,” explained Paul Raphaelson.
So, before the sleek and clean designs of the New Domino Sugar Factory by Vishaan Chakrabarti save the colossal decaying building, see the remains of what was once the largest in the world and a monument to Brooklyn’s industrial past in these amazing images.
Accompanying the release of the book, a selection of the photos will be on view in the solo exhibition Sweet Ruin at the Front Room Gallery at 48 Hester Street in the Lower East Side. Now open, they will be on view through January 14, 2018.
Boiler house and syrup station, from the top of the bin structure.
Steel conveyor belt for recycling bone char. Filter house.