Ford focus

“In the middle of the Brazilian Amazon jungle, on the banks of the mighty Tapajos river, the intrepid traveller comes across a truly lost city: Fordlandia. Named after the automobile pioneer and entrepreneur Henry Ford, who built an entire American industrial city there in the 1920s. He was after rubber for his tyres and his plan was to undercut the British rubber plantations of south-east Asia. At the height of the exploration some 10,000 people lived and worked in the plantations, factories and port. Most people were locals and were housed in simple wooden huts and most of these dwellings are still in use today, many years after the factories have closed. A little way off, amongst the mighty mango trees, the Vila Americana housed the managers in plush luxury. Most of these houses have succumbed to the creeping jungle and the passage of time. Ford’s enterprise ultimately failed and the whole project was shut down after a few short years. Only the old American-imported water tower still functions, supplying the modern town with its water. The other legacy is a few of the people who worked for the Americans who were still living when I visited in 2005 to photograph Fordlandia. Those survivors still remember the Americans and believe that it was not rubber that Ford was after, but gold – which they mischievously allege he smuggled out of the rainforest coated in rubber.

The photographs were originally published in Eight magazine ”

– Colin McPherson.

A derelict rubber factory building stands decaying in the middle of the town.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.

A derelict rubber factory building stands decaying in the middle of the town.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.

Interior of a derelict rubber factory building which stands in the middle of the town.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.

Interior view of the boiler room in one of the rubber factory buildings.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.

Abandoned houses in the ‘Vila Americana’ where American factory managers lived.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.

Interior view of one of the abandoned houses in the ‘Vila Americana’ where American factory managers lived.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.

Donna Olanda, 95, pictured outside her house in the village where she worked as a nanny to an American family during the rubber boom
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.

Two residents of Fordlandia pictured on the balcony of their home which was part of the rubber producing factory.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.

Villagers process through the village street carrying a statue of the Black Madonna during an annual celebration.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.

Villagers playing football on a piece of waste land by the banks of the river Tapajos in Fordlandia.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.

School pupils wait for a ferry to take them to outlying villages on the Tapajos river, with the original pumping station in the background.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2012, all rights reserved.

 

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