It has been too long, I fear. I can’t draw worth shit anymore! Take, for example, this character, first drawn in 2003 (known then as Rotunda). To be sure, the original doodle is a mere scribble, but it has a whoomph to it that my current attempt lacks. I recently renamed her Porcina Rotunda Flordia and had another go at doodling her. I like her attitude in the second better. How does she keep that top up, given the problem posed by her ample cleavage? Magic! I’m not sure what she’s sitting on. I was having visions of giant feathered flying anteaters, but ran out of paper.
While driving with my mother and stepfather today, I spotted a church without its roof (and many of its windows). I immediately had to go back and take pictures of it, as I have long been interested in scenes of urban decay! I received some flak for this from my mother, who wanted me to photograph the positive aspects of New City, and to stop focusing on the sad and depressed things.
My attraction to urban blight is not merely an emotional response. I do not deny that there is happiness and activity in New City, but there are already countless photographers out there covering weddings, food, sports, bridges and so on. Do I find beauty in things that are in good repair? Of course. Do I find the city skyline from the highest hill a most impressive sight? Without a doubt, however, that photo has been taken again and again and again by many people (myself included). The things of happiness are well documented. The terrible, I find, is not so well attended to. There are problems, every city has them, and though one might try to pay attention only to the ones that have a personal impact, there’s no way to ignore them all. They are part of the whole. Though my photographs are limited in skill and in audience, I feel a little better knowing that at least I am seeing that things are still falling apart, or that we still have to deal with the countless societal issues that are the cause of and follow in the wake of the destruction of buildings and community centers. Photography of urban decay is somewhat like sitting at someone’s bedside while they die. I cannot hold a house’s hand, but I can take a picture and remember that it was once there, and imagine what it might have once been.
This reminds me of the “New City Regional Branding Initiative” I found out about late last year. It is dedicated to the recommercialization of the area by portraying New City’s “dramatic and heroic cityscape,” and finds it “important to create an optimistic sense” in “captured moments [that] are essential to the communication” of the community. To state that these caveats promote an idealized version of New City is to remark upon the obvious. I find these concepts repulsive! It dulls New City and presents it from only one angle, that being the most marketable. It is a nostalgic view of the past, an average view of the present, and does not give anyone impetus to move forward because it makes things seem fine as they are. I cannot be satisfied with this perspective. Images of what is wrong are just as vital to decision-making as those that are right.
Not all things that come down are negative, either. Take the struction photos from 2005. The removal of that structure was, in fact, a beneficial step for the community, as it long sheltered drug deals and other problems. The issue is complex and so is my interest in the subject. It is not merely a matter of depressed birds of a feather flocking together.