Vitrine 4: ta panta rei

by Stefan Fletcher November. 11, 2014 1736 views

“Everything turns”, said the Weeping Philosopher. Everything changes.

Architecture photography is a favourite of mine but, like all photographs, pictures of buildings are prisoners of two dimensions. This means we labour to add depth, angles and use every technique to add a third dimension to what is basically a flat projection. But photography also lacks a fourth dimension. Architecture photography usually presents us with a fait accompli frozen in time, and the narrative possibilities are necessarily limited. I suppose this is what makes period pictures of the Eiffel Tower under construction so interesting. We all know what it looks like now; it’s hard to imagine it two-thirds finished.

It is a truism that everything is in a constant state of flux, of movement, of change. Human beings don’t like change and stills photography, by definition, freezes our subjects in time.

This is one of the reasons I really like the first image. On either side of a visibly decaying building are constructions in a better state of repair. I like the “flakiness” of the central building, the onion-skin feeling it offers. Some of the windows and shutters are still intact, others less so. Beneath is the building’s skeleton: bricks exposed like a compound fracture. The cat in the window bears silent witness and the neglected house plant in the right-hand balcony appears to be dying in sympathy. The “Life” graffito adds a poignant, ironic touch.

Is the decrepitude spreading like dry rot to the more modern constructions on either side? At what point does a building decay beyond recovery? Structural engineers can no doubt offer an answer; photographers have the luxury of asking the question.

I added the second image (also a favourite) because of that same changing, flaky atmosphere. It was captured very close to the first. The third is, however, a joke on me. Try as I might to accept that everything is changing, I can’t help looking for similarities that seem to have some permanence. The third, with its identical lighting and very similar composition, was actually captured two years later (almost to the day) and at the other end of the Mediterranean.

Plus ça change…

There's a minor artifice here: I flipped the third image horizontally compared to the original. What is really strange is that both Athens and Barcelona (where the second and third images were captured) appear to favour the same style in street lighting.

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There are 7 comments , add yours!
Chossid 6 years, 7 months ago

Love and fav'd 1 -- the vivid graffiti, and decay of broken shutters, winding staircase, peeling walls, between what appear to be lived in apartments.

6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Giancarlo Fosci 6 years, 7 months ago

like a lot last one

6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Moira 6 years, 7 months ago

Always liked the last two as I think you've posted these before but the first is a new one for me to see and what a lot to look at , cat and spiral staircase behind the windows too .
well done.

6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Dany 6 years, 7 months ago

Encore une autre facette de votre talent dans ce style de prise de vues, de la très belle photo.

6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Gillian Parsons 6 years, 7 months ago

The first capture is stark yet the second is much softer thanks I imagine to the lighting, third a mixture of old and new.

6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Antonio Gil 6 years, 7 months ago

The cat in the window brings life to an otherwise decaying building. Great editing to enhance the deterioration.

6 years, 7 months ago Edited
Kenny H 6 years, 7 months ago

Its funny how the light of day changes a mood. In the first shot, you almost feel sorry for the decay of something that "once was"...but when day turns to night - the same setting can also instill a fear of sorts. Its interesting how shadows, light and depth can convey a mood.
Great details too, by the way.

6 years, 7 months ago Edited