Photo Essay by Camilio Jose Vergara – – Despondent or Promising?

19 January, 2010 § Leave a comment

I stumbled across this article in Slate magazine a few moments ago, one entitled “American Ruins,” and was rapidly intrigued by the combination of text and photo that string together several decades worth of urban architecture snapshots.  “Ruins are open, vulnerable and evocative,” pens Vergara. “As building fragments, they invite us to imagine how they were before their demise.”

The reader then joins Vergara on a journey across the US as he pieces together a series of photos capturing a wide assortment of once flourishing buildings across the urban and suburban areas of today’s landscape, buildings whose walls, windows and doorways now lie in varying stages of abandonment, dormancy and disarray.

I wonder, though – – are we really to gaze upon the crumbled brick, smashed window or ivy-covered wall, only to be overwhelmed by melancholy over the inevitable entropic cycle of human decay and technological neglect? The stark reminder of the vanquished What Was is a fairly bleak prospect. Or, on the other hand, are we to gain a sobering yet uplifting glimpse into a future world of new organic growth, untold horizons and burgeoning life, one independent of our current all-consuming and all too limited present realities?

Curious. Call me odd or macabre, but I guess I find myself oddly encouraged that the rotation of the world and the ebb and flow of life – – whether that be encroaching green and mossy growth (see accompanying photo) or birth of another matter altogether – – does not begin and end in conjunction with my presence within it.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images…

And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

– – from the wasteland, t.s. eliot

Photo courtesy of
Indiana University staff writer.


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