Crafting A Legend

Photographs From The Airstream Travel Trailer Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio - Folio I of the American Made series by Memphis Barbree.

Crafting A Legend, Photographs From The Airstream Travel Trailer Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio is the first folio of a series in progress about work in America, particularly work that is done by humans, by hand - the work of crafting legends.

In the spring of 2017, I was invited in to photograph the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Ohio - the Mothership, as it is called by Airstream owners. As an owner of an Airstream trailer, I was excited about the prospect. I concentrated my work on the travel trailer manufacturing line. Airstream travel trailers are iconic, unmistakeable on the road and often much more than simply trailers or vehicles to their owners; they often become members of the family with names and personalities. 

Airstream’s founder, Wally Byam began the company in California in 1931. The Jackson Center, Ohio factory has been operating since 1952. It became the main base of operations after the California factory was closed in the late 1970s. At the time I was photographing the factory in 2017, Airstream had about 1,000 employees at the factory and they were producing 80 to 100 travel trailers each week.

Jackson Center, Ohio is a small town - population 1,456 the blue buildings of the Airstream factory are surrounded by farm fields and modest homes. On summer evenings, the small campground - known as the Terraport - is filled with the chirping of small frogs from a farm field to the east and the air circulation system of the main factory building to the west. Airstream and Honda - in nearby Marysville - compete for the labor force of the small towns in the west central Ohio area.

Airstreams are made and moved through the manufacturing process by hand. One of the first things to strike me as I photographed the factory was the intensity, care and focus with which the people of Airstream work. I often felt as though I were photographing athletes engaged in competitive sport because of the constant, rapid motion and intensity of the work.

The photographs in this folio are currently available as archival pigment prints on paper and dye sublimation prints on aluminum. Each option is limited to 20 prints in each size. Archival pigment prints are available in 13 x 19; 16 x 20; 24 x 36 and 44". Dye sublimation on aluminum are available in 16 x 20; 24 x 36 and 36 x 54.