Several years ago R. E. and I had an interesting conversation while photographing a decaying blue wall at a downtown Oklahoma City auto repair shop. The shop, and all the businesses around it, is gone due to construction of the crosstown expressway, so our images from that day can’t be reshot.
Robert shot with his Nikon F4 and a very old but excellent 20mm f/4 Nikkor. His setup was old school in the best sense of old school. One thing that is absolutely true about Robert is that his first priority is always imaging, not equipment.
He and I pondered that day the concept of decay, and why it is so photographically interesting…
- It is visually complex; decay is full of tiny, chaotic details.
- It is unusual, particularly to viewers who live and work in highly civilized environments.
- It leads to unstructured composition, lines and areas that are beyond what we normally photograph, thus allowing us to break the rules of composition.
I am particularly attracted to decay that involves color, since I think it draws the viewer into the image more dramatically.
Maybe the most compelling aspect of making images of decay is that it represents our ultimately futile efforts to order our chaotic universe. It’s all food for thought, but as I think about it, I’ll continue to photograph it.
Watch us photograph the blue wall here…
I think you last point is the most accurate, at least for me. It’s also about sadness and futility, which are powerful emotions. They are also images that give us a glimpse into days gone by — in the same way that photographing an older person conjures scenes from their early life, because we know they weren’t always old and weatherbeaten.