For more of Alyssha Eve Csük’s photography, read our profile from the July/August issue.
Alyssha Eve Csük grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, home of one of the largest steel mills in the world, Bethlehem Steel. Her grandfather worked at the mill for 36 years, until his death. Years later, the ruins of the sleeping giant excited her imagination, and the photographer returned to turn her lens on the abandoned industrial giant that Csük has called “an emerald city of jewels.”
In a brief interview, Csük talked about her work transforming industrial ruins into abstract art.
The Saturday Evening Post: What sparked your interest in the project?
Alyssha Eve Csük: As an artist, I am fascinated by places that embody bygone industry, in particular sites where I can explore the ravages of time. And I am charmed by the industrial era — the design and form components, along with the history and overall more simple way of life.
AEC: During my first days exploring the defunct Bethlehem Steel mill, I was immediately drawn to the colors, the patinas. I found that the erosive effects of the elements transformed the facades of the mill, slate, and scrap into textural canvases. To me these textural surfaces are similar to moss, where colors are more alive and vibrant after a good rain. Often, the shimmering surfaces seemed to whisper at me. I’d see these colorful patinas and find in them what seemed like watercolor or oil portraits.
SEP: How do you discover beauty in decay, restore life to the lifeless?
AEC: Careful study, patience, observation, and a natural instinct for strong design enabled me to capture painterly abstract photographs that lay bare unlikely beauty in unexpected places. The images are all straight photography — no manipulation.
AEC: My photographs embody the Japanese aesthetic concept of Wabi-Sabi — a worldview centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection — particularly the Sabi part, which means “the bloom of time.” It connotes a natural progression of an extinguished gloss that once sparkled — beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear.
SEP: What is your next project?
AEC: I will continue to work on a project called Treescapes — trees in the landscape all shot on film with a Linhof 617. And I may be getting access to a NASA launch pad site — I am absolutely fascinated by anything to do with space exploration.
See more of Csük’s work at csukphotography.com.
Read about Jonathan Waldman’s adventure with Csük as they ventured over the fence to explore the Bethlehem Steel Works in “Rust: Photography Adventures in an Abandoned Steel Mill.” Available online August 8, from the July/August 2017 issue of the Post.