From Metal to Mettle: An Interview with Sandra Gould Ford

Sandra Gould Ford, Ingot Moulds, c. 1986.

BOMB Magazine
December 1, 2017
by Jessica Lanay

The exhibition On the Making of Steel Genesis: Sandra Gould Ford, produced in collaboration with LaToya Ruby Frazier, is at its core an encapsulation of the human body as a filter. In Sandra Gould Ford’s photographs a viewer can assess the spiritual, natural, and mental after effects of failed industry on the human body. Employing her concept of mettle, which she discusses below, Ford emphasizes the symbiosis that occurs in transformation: human bodies culling steel from iron, iron pulverized in the sky entering into human lungs, and nature overtaking former sites of industry.

The following interview expounds upon such persistence and how Ford’s life in the steel mill, and the lives of the steel workers she accompanied there, resulted in a form of alchemy within the human.

Jessica Lanay
How do you see your trajectory or your own genesis from steel worker and beginning archivist to professional memoirist and photographer now?

Sandra Gould Ford
I have always been a writer, from the time I was a child and could begin to put words on paper, but I have done it intermittently. Photography was always an interest of mine from when I got my first little Brownie Bullet camera and began to say, “Oh, I can take these really neat pictures of snow on branches or something.”

The steel mill is still an ongoing impact on my evolution, especially spiritually. But I guess also in a pragmatic sense since I didn’t go to photography school until after I left the mill, so I didn’t formally study it before. So for a lot of the images I took I was really coached on taking photographs by other steelworkers because so many of them were active photographers, as hobbyists, and they were very good.

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Courtesy of: BOMB Magazine