The Gowanus Canal may not be too well known outside of New York City, but its existence is nothing short of an American tragedy.
Originally built as a transportation route between Brooklyn and Manhattan in 1869, the canal today remains one of the most polluted waterways in the country. Rife with sewage, chemical runoff from an assortment of manufacturing plants, and all manner of garbage, it’s rumored the Gowanus is void of parasites simply because its environment is too toxic for them.
No one is more aware of the damage done to the canal than photographer William Miller. Over the last two years he’s photographed it in these up-close shots that are at equal turns haunting and tragic.
As he explained to This Is Paper:
To look into the Gowanus canal is to gaze into the eyes of a corpse. It is murky and clouded over but if you look closely you can see life and light reflected in the mercury, feces and coal tar that drift in the canal like malevolent clouds. This uncomfortable cohabitation is the foundation of a photographic study of the strangely beautiful horror that the canal hosts.
[Source: William Miller Photography]
Photo: William Miller