Goodbye Old Taylor

In late May of 2013, early on a Sunday morning, I slung a duffle full of clothes and my Lowepro bag—this filled with my Canon DSLR, a couple of lenses (primes), memory cards, and some extra batteries—over both shoulders and headed into the brisk foggy air of the South Waterfront neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Together with a new model, Drew, we walked and talked our way down SW Moody, past Riverplace (many of its shops still closed), and over the Hawthorne Bridge toward SE Portland. The trip was a quick one, maybe a 30-minute jaunt. The day was prickly, overcast, and it looked halfway poised between rain and sun. By the time our shooting session was over, after about five hours solid work, Drew and I had seen both.

I was still new to Portland, having left San Francisco for cheaper fare the previous fall. So I knew nothing of our shooting location, which Drew had teased was “awesome,” “urban,” and “unique,” in our pre-shoot conversations; he had heard about it from another photographer friend. He wasn’t even sure of the exact location, only that it was someplace near the streetcar termination stop at OMSI amid the stark and rusted mess of Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial District. It seemed fitting that it looked like rain.

Photo Credit: Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian

I did not know that The Oregonian had done a piece on the Old Taylor Electric Supply Co Building, our destination, which journalist Devin Kelly had called a “burned-out” “eyesore” “artistic gem” the year before. Nor did I know that the property’s owner, Taylor, had acquired the building from Ingersoll Rand in the 1990’s; had been met with loads of trouble selling it, due to environmental concerns regarding “potential and ongoing” storm water waste; nor that Taylor had come to agreements with Portland’s Central Police Precinct that any trespassing artists or taggers should be arrested on sight. I also did not know that—at the time we were shooting—Old Taylor Electric Supply had already been pawned off to developers, Killian Pacific, who are now turning the lot into office space.

Instead, when Drew and I first spied the chain-link fenced-in beauty (while walking up SE Clay), we simply looked at each other in that co-conspiratorial agreement common to both artists and delinquents that says, “this is the place.”

Old Taylor Electric Supply had once been a handsome warehouse of brick and wood frame. Its large expansive walls played home to electrical equipment, flammable materials, and chemicals that sat on mortar-red and ash-grey asphalt floors. A ramp, made of cement, ran out the middle of its south side. And huge glass pane windows, reinforced with steel—like the high windows of a high school gymnasium—faced west toward the Willamette River. The building has a beautiful panoramic view of downtown Portland.

Photo Credit: Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian