Todra Palm Grove, Tineghir, Morocco, 2006
14th century buildings, now uninhabited, line this palm grove and the irrigated fields along side of it. The fading light contrasts the distant minaret with robed figures working in the fields. The abandoned buildings, palms, and the tiny figures are out of another age, while the minaret and the newer city surrounding it speak of the present. It is this contrast and context that brings these ruins alive and makes time stand still.
Dust to dust, El Badi Palace, Marrakesh, 2006
Almost all of the tiles that once covered the floors of this vast palace have long since vanished. Much of it was carried away in 1683 to celebrate the power of the Sultan of Meknes – the ruthless Moulay Ismail. Yet 500 years after its installation, fragments of the lavish tiling still remain, although nature now seems to be staking its own claim to it. The crumbling tile and the flow of green leaves from it demonstrates the ever-present tension between the work of man and the march of nature. I cropped the image into a long rectangle to intensify that tension.
Fallen idol, Volubilis, Morocco, 2006
Volubilis is a ruined Roman city, not far from Meknes. The Berbers abandoned it in the 9th century. It was forgotten and then utterly destroyed by the same earthquake that leveled Lisbon in 1755. The remnants of Volubilis were excavated in the late 19th century, among them this broken statue of a god. It was resting on the ground, not far from the restored triumphal arch that was originally built here in AD 217. A skeletal plant grows out of its broken chest. Most visitors will not notice this mysterious fallen idol. I found it among the most expressive of Volubilis’s treasures.
Cracked, Paris, Idaho, 2006
They boarded up the windows to keep the rain and snow out of the place when the glass broke. Perhaps it helped prolong the inevitable. It is now obvious that time is catching up with this place. It’s crumbling. We can read the eventual collapse in that crack, which I’ve isolated and emphasize here to read the fortune of an abandoned building in this small Idaho town.
Stamped out, Paris, Idaho, 2006
They no longer give S&H. Green Stamps here. (They don’t give them anywhere, for that matter. They expired with the turn of this century, becoming on-line “S&H Greenpoints.” There apparently is also a thriving market in their old catalogs. See http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abu/y202/m01/abu0061/s06
The irony of the expired premiums notwithstanding, this building clings to its tenuous hold on a corner lot in Paris, Idaho. Each day brings it closer to its end. We can read some of its history in the details – the sign is the most prominent. Yet other significant details emerge as well. Traces of the different colors that have once graced its front door can still made out on its ruined wood. The bricks that flank the door are painted white, letting all know where the entrance once was. The ornamental molding over the door that formerly welcomed visitors has all but vanished. The bricks are gradually giving way from the bottom, up. The weeds have reached the door-step, and the shadow of the big tree at left is just about to envelope the whole left wall. Yet a tiny padlock still keeps visitors at bay – protecting whatever of value may be left inside. We wonder what was sold here, who worked here, and where are they now. An image that asks questions and demands answers of its viewers is an expressive one.
Insulation, Paris, Idaho, 2006
Old corrugated cardboard cartons have been stuffed into this boarded up window to keep the weather at bay. From the scorch marks, it seems as if they had fire to cope with as well. The sight is an ugly one, yet the warm colors of my image raise it to a form of beauty. After all, fragments of those cartons, and the window they have tried to protect, are still there, aren’t they? The lesson is clear. Sometimes beauty can be found in otherwise coarse and mundane objects.
Buried, Fish Haven, Idaho, 2006
This abandoned automobile was buried in a sea of dried bushes, standing so high that they obscured its windows. I photographed through the screen of bushes, and found the sun glinting off of one of its heavily stained windows It was almost as if the old car was trying to summon energy from the sun for one more run.
Abandoned Jail House, Green River, Utah, 2006
An incongruously small building, this wreck of a jailhouse is just large enough to hold one small cell. It has a barred door and three small barred windows. It stands in the middle of an empty lot just outside of town. There are no signs or markers. We were directed here by a resident, who told us that according to town legend, the notorious bank robber and cattle rustler Butch Cassidy once spent a night in this jail house. Although Cassidy was known to have visited Green River, there are no records to support the story of his incarceration here.
I made this somewhat surreal image with a 28mm lens, featuring the jail, telephone wires crossed overhead, and a powerful cloudscape. The building seems forlorn and completely out of context. But it makes for a good story.
Church of the Holy Hay, Preston, Idaho
This building was once a church. Today it is used as barn. It is full of hay instead of hymns. One of its windows had lost all of its glass, clearly revealing the bales of hay within. I isolated that hay filled window on a field of boards. In spite of its utilitarian function, this window still has a spiritual presence. That’s why we called this place the Church of the Holy Hay.
Overgrown, Wellington, Utah, 2006
Nature knocks. And nobody answers. That’s the story here. The door is sealed shut, seemingly in battle with an advancing tree. Its steps are gone. Old equipment, which will never run again, gathers weeds on the ground. The siding is peeling away. A window is about to be consumed by a vine. Nature’s colors trump those of man. The end is nigh.
Steering wheel, Lone Pine, California, 2006
Sometimes a ruin is well characterized by its smallest details. I’ve abstracted this wheel by using my spot meter to expose for the three highlights – everything else goes dark and is implied rather than described. I convert the image to black and white to further abstract it, and make more of a symbol of an age out of it. Its sleek design speaks of the 1930s. Although covered in heavy dust and untouched for many years, it seems ready to spring to life with a simple touch. For more of the same ruin of a car, see the next example in this gallery.
Fender, Lone Pine, California, 2006
This time I go beyond the steering wheel to show more of the same ruin of a car displayed in the previous image. By cropping the car and using a spot meter to expose once more for the highlights only, I am still abstracting the car – showing only the parts I want you to see. The flow of light on the sleek curve of its fender, and globe like headlight speak eloquently of a time when art deco design and streamlining held center stage. It is incongruous to find such beauty in a ruined object, and that is the whole point of this image. The circles created by the hubcap and tire rim echo the curves of the fender and the headlight. I need only show part of the grille as context – it completes the image.