I’m always interested in lesser known aspects of famous artist’s work, and I had the opportunity to write about the World War II-era photographs Gordon Parks took in Pittsburgh at the Penola, Inc. grease plant. Read all about it at Art & Object:
In American industrial hubs during World War II, what’s known as the “arsenal of democracy” rapidly manufactured the materials to support the Allied military efforts overseas. This largely invisible labor included a diverse workforce producing everything from steel and ammunition to the grease that lubricated tanks, airplanes, and weapons. A young Gordon Parks photographed this work at the Penola, Inc. grease plant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1944 and 1946, visualizing the people operating the world’s largest facility of this kind in the world. The clarity and humanity in these images—where the heat and the grime of the plant are vividly present—show one of the twentieth century’s preeminent photographers of life in the United States using the camera to honor the individuals undertaking these jobs without overlooking the intensity of their toil.