Yesterday, Pepe and I loaded the kids in the car and went looking for abandoned buildings and spaces I could photograph. You know, just like I'm sure every family has done for hundreds of years as part of…part of…well, maybe just part of a mental disorder. Anyway, the kids were a bit bored, but they are used to the way I operate and they had iPads and toys to keep them somewhat busy. Pepe was probably bored, but that's his fault because he didn't bring any toys!
I was enthralled. I love weathered, neglected, worn-down, abandoned, unrepaired, etc. I am drawn to places that exist in a current past. There is something absolutely romantic and fascinating about a place whose only current existence is as a bookmark to another time. It's one thing to go to Notre Dame or the Duomo and think about the time and people who have flowed through that space, but it's another when the flow stopped and you get to knock into that past more directly. It's not that the spaces are preserved so well, because most often they are not, in fact I think it's because they aren't particularly well preserved, the connection with what was there is still so present. When too many hands have cleaned up a place, it rejoins the present. The places I like to see are those that whisper in dust and vines.
Also, I find, that if I know too much about the details of what happened in a place, my imagination isn't as drawn to it. I love the exercise of dreaming about the sounds and breath of a space when it was a container for some small portion of human existence. So, the chances are that if there were a beautiful mansion next to an abandoned hovel, you would find me in the hovel, even if I had been invited into the mansion (which would be the most surprising thing of all) and told I could have as much sushi as I wanted. Unless I thought I could somehow sneak back into the hovel later and I was hungry…but I digress…
Pepe always teases me that if anyone lives in an area which I find fascinating, they should move if they can because property values are about to hit rock bottom. An interesting take on the 'there goes the neighborhood' lament. I'm not the only one who is like this - there are urbex movements all over the world and amazing photographers who find themselves drawn to these places too. I found a website for Abandoned NC which may be the organizing force for my next road trip. There are photographers such as Matthew Christopher who have travelled all over the US and whose photographs I can't get enough of.
I'd say the only thing that fascinates almost as much as abandoned places are abandoned people. I want to know what happened, where did they come from, who are they now? In some of the buildings we went to yesterday, I saw that there were inhabitants even though the door labelled the building as condemned. These are people on the edges and they went inside the moment I stepped out of the car. I would most likely not have taken their picture, I feel much too self-conscious to talk to people I don't know and I hate to treat them as if they were animals in a zoo. Maybe that's my hang up though, I'm not sure.
I would love to undertake a project to take photos of people who are supposedly placeless in their spaces, because they must exist in space somewhere, the laws of physics can't be avoided - even if the laws of the city or state wishes it. As David Cross says, if we can put a man on the moon, maybe we should work on putting a man in an apartment.