Industrial Devolution

Decay and discontent in a small American town

01 November 2016
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THE TOWN OF EAST LIVERPOOL, in the state of Ohio, is a ragged notch on the United States’s Rust Belt—a line of former industrial hubs that stretches across the country’s northern mid-west. Many of those cities and towns, including East Liverpool, are still suffering from the mid-twentieth century collapse of American manufacturing. Today, the town’s population sits at around 11,000, less than half of what it was in the 1950s.

Scott Houston, a New York City-based photographer, is married to a woman who grew up in East Liverpool. On his first visit to her hometown, he recalled, “I just wanted to get back to New York.” But after returning a few times, he “started to like the colours there,” and “the way that some people looked.” Houston’s growing fascination with the place culminated in East Liverpool, Ohio, USA, a series that he shot between 2004 and 2016, over many separate visits to the town.

Since 1903, East Liverpool has been home to Hall China, a ceramics company that, at its height in the mid 1900s, earned the town the title of the “Pottery Capital of the World.” But by the second half of the century, non-American pottery began to dominate the US market. Hall China’s prosperity plummeted, and, along with it, East Liverpool’s. The dip in industry was accompanied by rises in unemployment, poverty and crime. Houston captures this decay through stark, varied shots: a rundown house, an old automobile showroom, a heroin addict’s cluttered bed.

Scott Houston is a documentary photographer and filmmaker based in New York City.

Keywords: USA America industry Donald Trump Ohio