William Miller photographed the waterway in Brooklyn to highlight the industrial runoff that has ravaged it.
When you look at the photographs in the gallery below by William Miller, it may not be clear what exactly they are of. They look like the surface of another planet, until you notice in one shot, something floating – it is a rat…a dead rat, floating in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, America’s most contaminated waterway.
Miller’s shots of the canal are both beautiful and eerie, a poignant study of the way human activity in the past 100 years has completely destroyed the canal. Since the 19th century, the canal has seen the runoff of coal tar yards, tanneries and ink factories to create a stream of sludge.
Miller’s images, which he shot over the past two years, transform the canal from a grimy waterway into abstract prints, where the oil become swirls of paint, and floating plastic become shimmering specks in the sunlight. Said Miller:
To look into the Gowanus canal is to gaze into the eyes of a corpse. It is murky and clouded over but if you look closely you can see life and light reflected in the mercury, feces and coal tar that drift in the canal like malevolent clouds.
Miller calls the canal ‘strangely beautiful’. Click through the gallery below and see if you agree: