Photo Exhibits Capture the Old and New Rouge
By: Mike Thomas | Ford Communications Network
Pulitzer Prize nominated photographer Michelle Andonian spent two years documenting Ford's historic Rouge facility. For more of her photos, visit rougereinvented.com.
DEARBORN, Mich. -- The Ford Rouge plant is a milestone in the history of the Ford Motor Company, from its embodiment of Henry Ford’s vision in the 20th century to its rebirth in the 21st century. That rebirth is the subject of a two and a half year project by Pulitzer Prize nominated photographer Michelle Andonian, while the Rouge in its previous heyday is featured in an exhibition by a master photographer of an earlier generation.
In 62 color and black and white photographs, Andonian chronicled the old Rouge and its transformation into a contemporary model of sustainable manufacturing. Her photographs, collected as “Reinvention: Rouge Photographs by Michelle Andonian,” are on display at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies (CCS) through October 23.
The Ford Motor Company Fund sponsored the project. Andonian was granted unprecedented access to the old and new plants. Her classically beautiful black and white photographs capture employees at the plant, production processes and such unusual pieces of equipment as a Treadwell car, and documents the final Mustang rolling off the old Rouge assembly line. Her color photographs detail the new Rouge and such revolutionary features as the living roof.
"To photograph there today is to understand the power and influence the Rouge plant has on an artist," Andonian said. "The last two years have been a pilgrimage for me. As a photographer who grew up in Detroit, the Rouge plant has been a place that I have always wanted to photograph. I am bearing witness to a change in the ways cars are being built and environmental initiatives that are both state of the art. You can literally stand in one place and see the past and the future of the automotive industry. It is that very evolution that once again puts Ford on the verge of not only new ways to make automobiles, but to restore and preserve the environment."
Andonian is a alumni of CCS, which is located in Detroit’s cultural center. Her work has appeared in The Detroit News, Life, National Geographic, Newsweek, the Washington Post and The New York Times. In addition to an extensive body of work rooted in Detroit, she has documented life in China, Armenia, Italy, India and Kenya.
Around the corner from Andonian’s exhibit, the Rouge is featured in another photography exhibit, this one at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Entitled “The Photography of Charles Sheeler: American Modernist,” the exhibit includes photographs of the Rouge commissioned by Edsel Ford in 1927. Sheeler’s photographs were part of an advertising campaign aimed at generating interest in the new Model A.
Sheeler was considered one of the master American photographers, and his work appeared in such magazines as Vogue and Vanity Fair. In his personal work, Sheeler documented the American landscape, from rural scenes early in his career to his later images of major cities and industrial sites. The exhibit is the first major retrospective of Sheeler’s career. It runs through December 5.
To view a sampling of Michelle Andonian’s photographs, visit Reinvention: Rouge Photographs by Michelle Andonian at rougereinvented.com. Information on the Sheeler exhibit can be found at the Detroit Institute of Arts Web site at dia.org.
Criss-Crossed Conveyors, one of Charles Sheeler's Rouge photographs, is one of the most famous industrial images of the 20th century. (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Arts.)