Knives is an elegy for American manufacturing made over several years, using photography to trace the shifting relationships between masculinity, myth, and violence in a rural town whose economic base, eviscerated by globalisation, is now supported by the prison industrial complex.
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 700 men and women out of work. The town’s maximum security prison, Eastern Correctional Facility, became the largest employer in the area, shielded from the wider community by layers of secrecy. As businesses continued to close during the decade that followed, drug abuse, mental disorders, and rare cancers have become more widespread.
The project operates as two intertwined stories: one, a typological study of knives crafted in the region since the rise of the cutlery industry, provides connective tissue to the other, 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, grappling with the effects of automation and outsourcing, cuts in services, and the rise of identity politics.