A profound mystery

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fotophox

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What is there about run-down buildings and dilapidated barns that screams, "Take a picture of me! Take a picture of me! A black and white picture, if you please! Adore me, for I am art!" :smile:
 

Ed Sukach

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First answer: I don't know.

Elaboration: Because I do NOT know, there is the mystery, and an inevitable sense of wonder. My ever-present curiostiy fires up ...

Who built these, and for what purpose? What occurred here? What were the aspirations, tears, joys, being of the people here ... and how, and why, with time, did the energy that caused them to be made fade and wither ... and with it, the buildings?

I don't believe the buildings scream, "This is art!"
- I do.
 

Monophoto

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Not an answer, but many years ago (back in the 70's), Bob Schwalberg wrote a column in Pop Photo about how photographers are affected by what he called "decrepitomania".
 

doughowk

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Character in people & buildings comes thru age. Perfection is sterile, the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi suggest beauty lies in imperfection. Also we aren't prescient enough, except with older buildings & people, to know that what we photograph today may be gone tomorrow.
 

Ed Sukach

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doughowk said:
Perfection is sterile, the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi suggest beauty lies in imperfection.

First I've heard of "Wabi-sabi". I agree with the concept.

Any more information avalable?
 

Digidurst

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Run down buildings, things left to age, anything old or anything made to look old appeals as fodder for our image making machines. The why is simple... We experience our world today as one filled with strife; Generally our planet is headed to hell in a handbasket. 'Old' things inspire us because they remind us of more genteel times, the good ole days of yesteryear.
That's just my theory anyway :smile:
 

Flotsam

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Ed, Check this out: http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WabiSabi

I agree, character and interest. An rundown abandoned restaurant with a faded, handpainted sign that says "EATS" is more emotionally and visually enagaging than another spanking new McDonald's

[Edit] Also there is a "Preserve it before it is gone" aspect to photography.
 

BWGirl

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It is an interesting phenomenon...I guess I've always accepted it without question. The old, dilapidated...they are some of my favorites. I love them!

Wabi-sabi...thanks for the link, Neal!
 

rbarker

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I think that fascination is partly due to the fact that the stories buildings and barns have to tell are more obvious when the structure is delapidated - thus, it translates well to film. There is a similar fascination with "delapidated people" - street folk of meager or no means. Because the on-film translation can work so well, viewers of the images can easily get involved with the result, reinforcing the popularity of the subject matter. In truth, perfectly maintained buildings, barns, and people also have stories to tell, but they take more work by both the photographer and the viewer.

There may also be an element of human fascination with the macabre, similar to that which causes drivers to slow down to gawk at an accident on the highway, or, in the past, to gather at public executions. Now, that's a mystery. :wink:
 

Sanjay Sen

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I have to say I agree with Ed. My fascination with a decaying/dilapidated structure also arises from my curiosity about what could have been happening when the structure was at it's prime - I try to visualize what the occupants could have been like, what type of life they could have been living. It is very nostalgic.

Last year I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the famous Taj Mahal and other historic structures nearby. Although the Taj is very well preserved, there are some other very interesting structures that are not so. And these are buildings that are many hundreds of years old. It is so nostalgic, and sometimes so sad.
 

Woolliscroft

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B&W is far better at depicting squalor than colour, be it slum conditions, war or decay. Somehow colour is just too every day. It sounds odd, but some things just don't look right in colour. We had a TV series in Britain recently called "WWII in colour". I suppose we are more used to seeing it in B&W, but the footage just looked wrong. In the same way, would a Charlie Chaplin film look right in colour?

David.
 

photomc

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They are a connection, to our own past, to a people we may not know...but want to. They remind us of our own past, depending upon our age, what once was. I often wonder what was it like 'new' what did the pople do, what did they think, what were their joys, hardships and sorrows. Were they pretty much like us, or did they have little material things and a harvest of non-material things. How did they get there and how long did it take, where did they come from? What was the trip like - was it in a car, a train, a wagon. Did the people that came and went, know any of my own relatives...were they part of my own past. What did the land look like then?

They are questions, unanswered and they are answers to questions yet ask. And many times they are returning to the earth, as most things do...except hot-dogs and twinkies of course..didn't want to get to serious...
 

WarEaglemtn

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"An rundown abandoned restaurant with a faded, handpainted sign that says "EATS" is more emotionally and visually enagaging than another spanking new McDonald's."

And, if you find old & dried out food in the back room dating to the time the restaurant was open it would taste better than McDonalds today.
 

blaze-on

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For me it's the story, unseen as it may be.
Someone asked me once (looking at a drawing I did from a photo I took in college) "how come you do empty buildings, there's no people." I think I said something like, "there's hords of people here, it's an old bus station so imagine the thousands that passed through here, the places they traveled, people they went to see, etc."

Same reason I like to use older cameras. Who might have used them? What travels had they been on? What images they may have taken and had I perhaps seen them?
 

Clueless

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The 1970 Pulitzer Prize in Non-Fiction: The Denial of Death, also would flesh out the bones of our fascination with decay. Since Wabi-Sabi is ingrained in Japanese culture do their web sites suggest the poignent appreciatation of the simple, the broken, the repaired, the ignored?
 

doughowk

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Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren is an excellent intro. Beauty is in a handmade object (think darkroom) vs something manufactured & perfect (think digital). Perfection is actually an illusion, and as things decay their imperfections become manifest. And the decay suggest the natural forces,
They record the sun, wind, rain, heat. and cold in a language of discoloration, rust, tarnish, stain, warping, shrinking ....(and) are a testament to histories of use and misuse. Though things wabi-sabi may be on point of dematerialization ... they still possess an undiminished poise and strength of character
A sampling of thoughts from an excellent book for all artists.
 

Jim Chinn

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It is about a couple of things to me, both already touched upon. Old structures and machines seem to radiate a certain character or history not unlike that of a person. The fascination there lies in the what was.

The second thing for me is the idea that all man made things will eventually turn to dust. For me, recording process of decay reminds me that life here is fleeting and that no matter how successful our struggle to survive and make our mark, nature and time will always win out.
 

eagleowl

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I don't know...

...what the fascination is-although I've taken B&W shots of a disused building-but the reason I use B&W in that situation is it seems to make the building appear older.
 

Alex Hawley

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Old structures have far more character than the run-of-the-mill modern ones. Bricks, stone, wood have intrinsic local patterns and imperfections. This develops more local contrast, more things to see. Something is more pleasing about their style too.

A nearby town had a big fire just this last Friday night that destroyed nearly all of its historic downtown buildings. Most were 100+ years old. Of course, the structures are damaged beyond repair and will have to be demolished. The town council announced the following morning that they will rebuild this section because "it is our town's character". Three Cheers for Fort Scott, Ks!
 

chuck94022

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Everyone has been saying character, but to me that is a nebulous answer.

For me, the reason is texture. Old structures lend themselves to B&W to me because B&W is about communicating textures and tones, not colors. Old strutures are already faded and worn. The color is usually depressing and uninteresting (though that is at times what the photographer hopes to capture of course), but the tonality and texture is still abundantly there. That is what attracts me. I think when I look for B&W structural subjects, my first inclination is to look for interesting textures or tones that I can capture on film. Older structures make this easy. Plus, they usually aren't something you see everyday, and that adds interest.

-chuck
 

rbarker

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doughowk said:
. . . Perfection is actually an illusion, and as things decay their imperfections become manifest. And the decay suggest the natural forces . . .

So, when an inkjet print of a digital image starts to fade, it starts getting some wabi-sabi? :wink:
 

Tom Hoskinson

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Maybe not. But on the other hand, just look at me - aging and deteriorating beautifully!
 

rhphoto

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chuck94022 said:
Everyone has been saying character, but to me that is a nebulous answer.

For me, the reason is texture. Old structures lend themselves to B&W to me because B&W is about communicating textures and tones, not colors.

-chuck

I totally agree. When I'm out shooting what I used to call "funkabilia", I'm looking for what will look good in a silver photographic print. And old textury stuff just looks better than even-surfaced new stuff. Speaking just for myself, I don't do any philosophic meditation when I'm working, I just wait till I get excited visually by something. I live in Vermont. There's more damn decrepit barns and walls and whatnot than you can shake a tripod leg at. But I ain't thinkin' about history - I'm thinkin' about how cool the print's going to look fresh out of the developer!
 
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