Monday, May 08, 2006

Monday---Abandoned places

Ruined greenhouse on a friend's property...

I received my BFA in photography as a documentary
photographer. For about 10 years, I searched out and
photographed abandoned buildings, ruined architecture,
forgotten places. I loved searching out the old houses,
broken barns, blasted industrial buildings....
My best friend and roomate at the time Johnny and I would
drive around Washington in my old truck and find these places.
He was like a search hound for me---I couldn't believe how good
he was at finding old houses.....I'd drive right by what I thought was
a dense woods and he'd yell "Stop!" and hidden amongst the
brambles and overgrowth, there would be some beautifully ramshackle
I love the play of light falling through broken windows. I love
half-burned walls and brush growing up inside the floors of rooms.
I love seeing what is left of a house when all the people have moved
on and the forest re-inhabits it. I love seeing what people leave behind
in abandoned houses. Of course, in many "abandoned" houses, we
found LOTS of beer bottles, yucky mattresses, used condoms,
graffitti.....but that detritus was still evidence of the continued
evolution of the house. It was evidence of another transitional period
that structures go through before complete abandonment and
The best places were those farther from main roads, farther off
the beaten track, more overgrown, longer abandoned.
In these, the clues of the former inhabitants are more arcane and
harder to find. In one old, old house Johnny and I found, we discovered
one lone man's shoe in the attic....and that was it.
One house I found when by myself was so thickly surrounded by
blackberry brambles that I couldn't get within 50 feet of it without
tearing my clothes to shreds. I had to photograph it at the
outside perimeter of the thorny jungle around it....
At a house here in Alaska, I was walking quietly through the
rooms of an old house near downtown---abandoned for quite awhile---
and I came upon a very drunk man sleeping on the floor in the
back photos of that house, as I had to tiptoe
very quickly and quietly out.
There is definitely a certain amount of danger to trotting
around in lost places. I once found myself very carefully
traversing the rotting beams on the upper story of a badly
burned house....stupid! But I HAD to get a shot of a bookcase
full of books that had been singed and then waterlogged---
the books were bulging out of the shelves, yet text still
peeked from the ragged, blackened pages. Gorgeous.

I find myself picking up my camera again and shooting lost
buildings, places whenever I stumble across them.
Here's a Monday blog I hope to continue as a weekly intallment...
Do you have an attraction to these places, too? What is it for
you that makes abaondoned buildings so fascinating? Posted by Picasa

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