“Cementland” was intended to be a public art exhibit on the 54-acre site of a former cement factory just north of St. Louis, Missouri. It is the unfinished work of artistic genius Bob Cassilly, a sculptor, and entrepreneur, in St. Louis, Missouri. Bob Cassilly was also the founder of the St. Louis “City Museum”, which draws over 700,000 visitors a year and is one of the city’s leading tourist attractions. The cement factory was originally shut down in the late 1970s, and laid dormant until 2000, when Bob Cassillly happened by and got the idea to create a sort of cement themed art exhibit/ amusement park. It contains giant concrete sculptures and obsolete machinery, along with structures that Bob was in the process of creating. Local construction companies paid to dump on the site, which provided Bob with the income and raw materials to create his masterpiece. Cementland is unfinished because Bob died tragically on September 26, 2011 while working on Cementland. Since that time Cementland has not been open to the public. Several urban explorers have broken in to steal images, but I was lucky enough to be granted access recently.
As I walked thru Cementland, I felt like I was in one of those end-of-the-world, post apocalypse, Syfy channel movies. You know, where you wake up and find out something really horrible happened, the world ended along time ago, . . . and you slept thru the whole thing. Here I was in these ruins, surrounded by massive steam punk looking rusted machines with gigantic gears, and futuristic, articulated arm robots that clearly died some time ago.
The entire scene was very surreal. Castles built from thousands of cobble stones. Discarded items recycled and re-purposed into eye catching designs and structures.
At first glance, the entire place seems a chaotic jumble of . . . stuff. Then I started to see a pattern, a design in the chaos. Everywhere I went something pulled me further, and I kept feeling like I needed to rotate completely around not to miss anything. Every walkway had something intriguing placed just out of the normal range of vision, right on the periphery. Something would grab my attention and then pull me on.
The further I went, the more impressed I became with the artistic vision of Bob Cassilly. I was walking thru his art. I regret not having the opportunity to meet Bob Cassilly. He had artistic vision on massive scale. I am certain that everything he placed was there for a specific reason, . . . . and it worked.
I only had a couple of hours to shoot, but I could have easily spent an entire day there and felt like there was more to see. There was an overcast sky which meant not a lot of shadows. I shot Cementland with 2 Canon 7DMKIIs, one color one converted to Super Color Infrared. I set a Custom White Balance on my Infrared camera using using grass, but in several situation found I got better results using the concrete for a WB reference. I started off handheld, but quickly realized I needed a tripod.
It was a very exciting shoot, and I am glad I was allowed access to this massive piece of art. I know there is talk the project may be finished by another artist, but whoever undertakes it will have some rather large artistic shoes to fill.
If you would like to see the full series of images, click here