The unintentionally funny generic names of a few small manufacturing companies on Second Avenue suggest a certain immigrant earnestness, and lead me to believe that the quality of their craftsmanship is inversely proportional to their verbal creativity.
Brooklyn was once the fourth largest industrial center in the U.S., employing about 600,000 people in manufacturing jobs right after World War II. Today it’s less than a tenth of that number. But industry lives in Brooklyn, which is obvious from any weekday stroll through places like Gowanus, Greenpoint, and Sunset Park. Artisans, tradesmen, and laborers flood these quarters, representing a manufacturing boomlet driven by a steady influx of both skilled and unskilled labor from all over the world.
To me—a man of the keyboard, a “knowledge worker”—the surviving spirit of Brooklyn’s once imposing industrial economy is intoxicating; the landscape of working factories intermingled with copious decay strikes me as some kind of exotic dreamscape. But whenever I trawl industrial Brooklyn, with my camera and notebook and my ethereal concerns, I am constantly reminded of the working man's enduring place in the real world.