An unlucky few may happen to glimpse the fabled Dragon House out on the rolling prairies of Saskatchewan. Its unearthly glow can be seen for miles across the flatlands, providing false hope of succor for the tired and unwary traveler. Most will steer clear of the sight, knowing not quite why, save only for the remembrance of grim stories told by the Métis overheard in their youth echoing in their heads.
We were almost done going through this defunct hospital in Detroit when we found the operating rooms. In total darkness, overhead lamps leered from the ceiling, while rusting cabinets lined the walls. An already successful exploration had gotten that much better.
Shooting by flashlight isn’t ideal, and of all the angles and takes I tried this is really the only one that looks halfway decent. Hopefully, it conveys a bit of the sense of place.
It seems that an abandoned church, in a city which is the epitome of fin de siecle American pessimism, would be a natural setting for some soul-searching and account taking. The past few weeks have seen me travel to Detroit and Saskatchewan in pursuit of the next Great Shot (its Greatness, however, usually being aspirational, and rarely actual) and left me more exhausted than I can ever recall being, and with more photos to process than I’ve ever had at one time. The question that seeps into a mind tired and numbed by travel and lack of sleep is “why am I doing this?”
Urbex photography is a bit dodgy when considered as an art form. Consider that many of its practitioners take pictures merely to document the fact that they’ve been someplace. Certainly it can be a touch formulaic. And what is it saying? The derogatory term “ruinporn” gets hung on it precisely because so much of it says little besides “look how awesome this abandoned shit looks!” The challenge for any artist is to have something, be it their own emotional voice, a social statement, or a personal aesthetic shine through their work. A great and well known photographer, Matthew Christopher, has a very noble conservationist stance on the buildings and places he shoots. Though I respect that, I’ve never been able to bemoan the process of decay that makes what I do possible. So what, then?
Unfortunately, I have no neat and ready answers here and now. I have progressed to the point where I can at least say that my shots do not totally suck. But what will they ever be besides (hopefully) pretty pictures? What I do know is that I love photography, and urbex photography particularly. My answer right now seems to be to keep working on sharpening my voice, and hoping that it comes through.
Oh, and yes! A photograph: pulpit in aforementioned church.
We crept out of the forest and into the glade where this haunting asylum resides
The wind whispered secrets of a forgotten past, and lured us to her insides.
We tried to sign in, but no one was there
Just a silent typewriter and a vacant chair
A vine slithered to the door and said, “Right this way.”
We stepped into the realm where teeth go to decay.
Primitive markings decked the halls
Personified chair, pink taco, blue balls.
“They stuck me in an institution,
Said it was the only solution,
to give me the needed professional help,
to protect me from the enemy – Myself”
(This scenario is perfectly reminiscent of the classic Suicidal Tendencies song “Institutionalized”)
A light shone in the Attic, octagonal in shape
Like the watchful Eye of Providence, making sure you don’t escape.
It’s interesting sometimes how we think Death can be ignored,
But once committed to this place, the only way out is through the Morgue.