Steve Mellon, a staff photographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, has been a journalist for over twenty years. His images have appeared in the New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, Time, and USA Today.
America was once full of small, lively places that produced things. But then factories closed, mills shut down, mines quit hiring. Steelworkers, textile workers, automakers, and coal miners were laid off, phased out, downsized, outsourced, given the axe, or otherwise told to get lost. Once proud towns gave way to vacant storefronts, empty streets, and wounded people struggling with anger and bitterness. Through words and pictures After the Smoke Clears takes readers into the communities of Homestead and Braddock, Pennsylvania; Lewiston, Maine; Matewan, West Virginia; and Flint, Michigan. Each of these company towns had staked its fortune to a single industry. And each has suffered for it. Steve Mellon focuses on the human face of that suffering. Again and again, men and women fighting to make ends meet freely admit that the blows to their sense of self and sense of community were more hurtful than the economic damage caused by the departure of the mill or mine or plant. As he explores the complex relationship between work, loss, and identity, Mellon offers thought-provoking reflections on the hidden costs of economic policies and business decisions made by multinational corporations to abandon the small towns that made them strong.