Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The attraction of decay

click photo to enlarge
The attractive qualities that are sometimes ascribed to ruins and scenes of dereliction and decay has its roots in the Romanticism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This movement was a reaction against the dominant social and political values of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature. It elevated strong emotion and the "sublime", proclaiming them worthy feelings capable of standing alongside reason.

Today painters and photographers generally eschew the ancient classical and Gothic ruins that feature in the works of Caspar David Friedrich and J.M.W. Turner, preferring the post-industrial scenes of our urban areas. Derelict buildings, graffiti, abandoned factories and dilapidated warehouses in inner-city wastelands have taken the place of the roofless churches, collapsed columns and decaying statues in arcadia or on precipitous heights. But, in finding such things attractive and worthy of recording in paint or with a camera, is there more than the late stirrings of Romanticism at work. Perhaps our latterday scenes that evoke feelings of repulsion and sublimity work at a visceral level reminding us of the transient nature of our society, and the fact that all we now value and revere has the potential to fall apart and be cast aside. For some that is a terrifying thought that undermines the contract that materialism offers us. For others it is a visual admonition of a truth that our culture tries to make us forget. And maybe that is what determines whether or not you like such images.

Today's photograph is not an example of urban decay and dereliction, but rather is its rural counterpart. I don't know what the original purpose of these abandoned units was: perhaps they housed pigs or some other livestock. But today they sit empty and forlorn at Monksthorpe in Lincolnshire, their asbestos panels slowly succumbing to the ravages of the wind, weeds growing up around them, a glimpse of someone's failed or superseded enterprise. As I walked past them one evening, the sun low in the sky, its light illuminating the underside of a bank of low, dark clouds, the buildings' abandoned character appealed to me, and I took this photograph.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 8.8mm (41mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f3.2
Shutter Speed: 1/500
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On