i'm stuck with them, and they're stuck on you

when i was a kid we lived in the suburbs of victoria in a place called colwood. it was pretty average, as far as these things go. like many kids back then i was often left unsupervised for afternoons at a time, building forts and attempting to catch cray fish in the stream. there are two places that contain most of my memories from back then, well outside of school, a cemetery and a golf course, both only a stones throw away from my house. the golf course was the more dangerous choice, oddly enough, with the occasional FORE shouted our way. we loved to look for lost balls, under bushes, or in the bottom of creeks. we would collect them, line them up and study their names, titleist and top flite, their colours mostly white, but every now and again there would be a fluorescent one (bright orange and it still got lost, my kind of ball). we loved the element of danger about the golf course, the electric feeling of doing something you aren't supposed to. there was a mystery about it that we couldn't resist.

my friends and i had a route we always took when we were on the course. first you needed to sneak through the hole in the chain link fence, make sure to look both ways so as to not get caught, and then run as fast as you could to the trees and hide. mostly we walked out in the open without a care, but there were a few spots where you needed to tread carefully, more windows in sight, or the clubhouse looming. where we entered was like that, but once out of the clear we were fine. singing tiffany songs or laughing at some dumb joke. being 10.

it was a hot day near the end of august when i first saw the building. we hadn't found any balls that day and started to wander off our usual path out of boredom. it was on the far side of the course, an area i had never been to before. it was so huge and regal looking, something out of a book. i wondered why a building like that would be here, in the middle of what had to be the dullest town in the world. all one side was windows, so many panes with stained glass. my friends didn't have any interest, they hardly even noticed, but i couldn't stop looking. i had to look inside, i needed to know what i'd find. i couldn't reach flat footed, so i pulled myself up with the sill to get a view. what i saw was an enormous ballroom, with wood floors and fantastic natural lighting. it was vacant. well not just vacant but in decay, the wallpaper peeling, dust inches thick on everything. in the corner there was a wheelchair turned on it's side, cobwebs filling it's wheels. i was terrified and captivated all at the same time. i still remember the way it felt to look up at the chandelier imagining one thing, and then to look down at something altogether different. i never forgot that, the enormity of it, to me.

then last week i decided to go into a house that is slated for demolition. the doors had been removed, so my access was relatively painless. i was curious what it looked like inside. i wondered if there would be anything worth photographing. what i found was a house that had been pulled apart from the inside out, pipes and sinks, tiles and windows, all removed for sale or scrap. the power was off leaving only natural light filtering through the space. it had that same magic to it, the beauty and the destruction all mixed together. i came back the next day to photograph it.

i later told a friend about the house, and the photos, and he told me that it is a thing, a movement of sorts. urban explorers. i guess it makes sense that it would be a thing, i mean, i didn't think i was the first to think of it, but it was neat, to discover something new. to find inspiration in a place you weren't expecting it. now i find myself reading about hdr and exploring wide angle lenses, scouring flickr groups, and finding photos like this. there is a beauty in that which has come and then gone, a reminder of our mortality framed in the perfect afternoon light. i would like more of that. preferably without needing a crow bar.

some of my photos (the whole set is here)


miranda said...

lovely mental picture, that ballroom. i can see it now.

i love the photos you take capturing the decay and demolition.

Anonymous said...

i think the building you describe was the old club house on the hill that was subsequently used as a sanitarium before its demolition. i always wished that building would have been given it a grand new life. thanks for thr blast into the past. A