Sunday, February 26, 2012

CINTI. Mains

Dear George,

As a fledging photographer, I’ve been trying to decide on my specialty. It’s difficult because there are endless possibilities, but I think I’ve finally narrowed it down: i.e., Cincinnati water and gas mains. The reasons are pretty compelling. First of all, water and gas mains are practically everywhere – a lot more common and accessible, for example, than strawberries, children on bicycles, or red-winged blackbirds. Second, mains are so mysterious. They are portals to a hidden underground world that we never see. Every day Cincinnati pumps 135 million gallons of water through 3000 miles of water pipes below our sidewalks and streets. I have no idea how you’d open a water main, have never seen anybody do so, and can’t imagine why they’d want to in the first place. Third, as the photos below attest, there’s an astonishing variety. You’d think all the mains be standardized, at least on the same block, but each one seems to have a unique design. Fourth, while water mains weren’t designed with aesthetics in mind, they are definitely aesthetically pleasing. They look like ancient artifacts, rusty and corroded. They must have been installed when the city’s infrastructure was put in place, and the originals are still there even when they’re embedded in sections of brand new sidewalk. Many are spray painted so that low-flying airplanes can take aerial photos of their location and engineers can draw maps. (That may sound made up, but a water company guy told me that.) Here’s a sampling of some of the water and gas mains within a few blocks of our house in Clifton. Just a mere tip of the iceberg.



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