If I were a photographer I would create a series called “Lost…and Found”. “Lost and …Found” would feature places that used to be functional but no longer are. The assumption is that they don’t exist anymore (they are “lost”) because they are boarded up, abandoned, etc. The reality is that even if they appear inaccessible, they still exist.
The idea of “Lost…and Found” is inspired a bit by Jim Griffoen over at Sweet Juniper– lawyer turned stay-at-home-dad who shoots pictures of his kids but also images of abandoned structures of all sorts, including train stations, a book depository and a former park. They are images that that others hardly give a second glance, especially in his adopted home city of Detroit where lost buildings seem to be the norm.
I, too, have always been intrigued with boarded up places. Houses, yes of course, but also whole campuses of buildings that are just abandoned. Spaces that are still very much intact and for some reason or another aren’t in use anymore. Sometimes the reason why is very obvious; there’s a sign or other marker which tells a bit of the story. Other times, there is only a simple chain. And many times, there’s nothing at all.
For my project, I’d start small.
The images above, to the right, and below are of two places very close to each other, near Bismarkplatz in Heidelberg. I saw them on Saturday. After pointing them out to my husband who translated the sign on each (“public bathroom closed.”), I went back a few minutes later to take a few pictures. Something very likely that no other visitor to the city has ever done.
No one is ever going to mourn the closing of two public bathrooms near a popular square in a tourist party of a city. Public restrooms are perpetually filthy and conjure up unpleasant thoughts for most of us. So, it’s not a twinge of nostalgia that haunts these spots, as it might if they were a once beloved family home.
I think maybe it has something to do with a loss of purpose. The places, even objects and obviously people too, that we encounter everyday all have a purpose. Purpose is the reason for everything. When purpose is lost, closed, boarded up or misplaced…well, what then? An occupation of space for no reason. Not a tragedy but sad nonetheless.
The documentation of such places/spaces seems to be important somehow, as if these photos serve as a reminder to myself about the space that I occupy. How important it is that I am mindful of my own purpose and that I don’t allow it to be boarded up, by myself or anything else. That’s true for you too, of course.
If this meme fascinates you as well, check out this amazing story on This American Life about an abandoned place found, forgotten and then re-discovered.