People have always created things, discarded and forgotten them: this is why we have a science of archaeology. Over time, the things we discard and forget have grown larger and more complex. Once it was stone arrowheads, now it is houses, stores and factories. These things, once abandoned, immediately begin to vanish as nature begins the slow work of taking them back. Without wishing to forbid any particular understanding, let me stake out the negative space of this series—what it is not about. It is not a warning; it is not a judgment; it does not moralize. It does not hope to evoke nostalgia for a better time, now lost. It is no sort of environmental protest. It is not a grim document of our current economic condition. The presence of the people who once lived and worked here is unavoidable: their lives had a meaning we can guess at but can never recapture. Still, I am less interested in what people took away from these places than in what they left behind, and what happened to it. What continues to happen to it. What we mistake for entropy is in fact a different version of order: the slow transformation of straight lines into curves and polished surfaces into rough, mottled ones, the unfastening of joints, the unweaving of cloth, the unmooring of words from meaning. Everything hard becomes soft, everything closed becomes open, everything barren becomes fertile.
At first it seemed like a coincidence. But soon there could be no doubt: the letter A was seeping into the world. What could it mean? For weeks, rumors flew. Some people had no opinion; some were transfixed; some couldn't be bothered. By the end of summer, people had almost stopped noticing. After all, what harm could they do? And then
And Then One Day We Left And then one day we left. We packed our things in U-Hauls and receded like the tide. We thought we knew the place, but what we knew was sand in porous bags that sifted out in trails before the first McDonald’s. The rules of games, the neighbors’ secret nights, and who said what to start the great Thanksgiving fight—all told divergent ways, and vanished in the telling. And so our memories dissolved. But sometimes, the color of the light, a shout, a chance aroma gave us just a fleeting glimpse, a vision falling down in place within our minds, with nothing now to tell us but the only way to remember’s to forget.
My father died on January 7th, 2015, a few weeks short of his 92nd birthday. For days afterward I had trouble believing the world continued. People drove cars, went shopping, worked, ate, slept and woke up just as before, even though for him, everything had ended. But it had not ended. Everything we do, we do for a last time: look at a familiar face, walk out of a room, put down our tools—one day for the last time. But things will go on: death is not final, abandonment is not final, destruction is not final. Even after they have shaken free of that shallow concept called “use,” things carry our memories of how it once felt to be alive in those wonderful lost years. These photographs are an appreciation of what remains.