Death Becomes Her
There is beauty and wonderful aesthetics to be found in the derelict, the mundane and the forgotten.
A photograph is just as much photons on a sensor as they are a picture, hung on the wall. Or a memory, and when taken in participation of an activity freeze that moment in time. Halting further decay, presenting the illusion of immortality.
Calke Abbey tells the story of the dramatic decline of a country house estate. Before the National Trust received ownership of the estate in 1985, most of the house had remained untouched since the 1880’s. Remedial work has been undertaken yet no restoration has been applied. The interiors are almost as they were presented in 1985, the decay of the building and its interiors are halted, not reversed.
Most subjects photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched with pathos. An ugly or grotesque subject may be moving because it has been dignified by the attention of the photographer. A beautiful subject can be the object of rueful feelings, because it has aged or decayed or no longer exists. All photographs are momento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.
Susan Sontag, 1973