Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Modern Ruins, Portraits of Place in the Mid-Atlantic Region, Shaun O'Boyle photographer


I have a thing for rustic windows, and things that somehow return to their organic, rustic origin. All the artificial colors and signage seems to disappear, and the primeval elements of metal and stone are revealed. This of course is especially subtle in black and white photos, that make these structures somehow elegant and lovely.

Sure, I'd hate to have miles of these abandoned structures out my window or on my commute. But in their photos, O'Boyle takes them out of the 'real world' and into a more unique frame of thought. It's like looking at old headstones and realizing two things: the representation of what once was alive, and the way the passage of time creates something new and yet still alive (rust, decay, encroaching plants).

Bethlehem Steel interior
The most impressive are the ones showing exterior windows, some clinging to just a few shards of glass. And interior photos from Bethlehem Steel, monsterous open spaces surrounded by stick trusses and steel posts look as ghostly and haunted as you'd imagine. In some photos, the small paned windows look more like the bars in jail cells...did the former workers symbolically escape when the factories closed? In fact, the Eastern State Penitentiary are especially poignant, with the frames of old metal cots under elegant barrel-rolled ceilings.

Northampton State mental hospital

 Having spent years in architecture, I appreciate the unique style and efforts that went into the most mundane of buildings-moldings, pediments, trim...things that modern construction eliminates due to costs. The Northamptom State mental hospital is especially elegant, eyebrow arches, miles of deep crown molding and panel trim makes the abandoned interior look more elegant than many McMansions today.

Insightful essays are inserted that discuss what the decay symbolizes in view of modern times.  Photography fans would love this coffee-table style book...

Special thanks to Penn State University Press for the Review Copy.

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