Ruins and remains of our lives and built environment

Filth © Ismail Lagardien

Scanning through the photographs on my storage drives I was struck, recently, by how often I have made pictures of ruins and ruination. There are pictures of rubble among them, but it is mainly ruins; structures that have broken down, or that have been allowed to break down, and places and spaces that seem to have lost their use-value. The pictures I made are often about places that have been vacated, voluntarily or involuntarily, as well as material structures, ruins, and rubble that have amassed over time, and for which there seems to be no further use, other than being prepared for disposal. Or it is simply neglected for no particular reason…. Whether it is rust or simply disrepair, I seem to have developed, unwittingly, an interest in capturing spaces of decrepitude and decay.

Rust © Ismail Lagardien
Broken © Ismail Lagardien
Shoes © Ismail Lagardien
Decrepit © Ismail Lagardien
Abandoned © Ismail Lagardien

These pictures have no aesthetic value. At least I don’t think so. They’re made more out of habit – I have acquired because it makes for interesting pictures. What I have done, since I became interested in cities – from a political economy or sociological perspective, and especially the history and semiotics of structures and buildings – is look at some of the literature on ruins, and on cities, in general. I should say, with some haste, that I have no scholarly background or interest in these issues to the extent that I have anything significant or ground-breaking to add. I treat the entire process as would a flaneur with a camera.

What draws us to ruins

This fascination with ruins, and I should not be disingenuous, is a retrospective appreciation, in the sense that I never really set out, purposefully, to photograph ruins, rubble or urban spaces that have gone to waste. At least I think so. Perhaps it is successive visits to Istanbul that sparked my interest in what has been described as “the melancholy of ruins”. Although I can’t be sure of that. I photographed ruins and rubble in Georgetown Guyana, before I made pictures in Istanbul or Dubai much later. All of this notwithstanding, looking through my photographs, I saw a pattern running through the thousands of pictures I have made over the years, and that are, now, stored on my external hard drives.

In October 2019, while walking through Dolpadere in Istanbul, I realised, how often I photographed things, and they never see the light of day again (so to speak), when they are “stored” on my computer or one of the external hard drives. 

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