The Appeal Of Decay


Whenever I travel, I find myself drawn to things which are falling apart. People will look askance at me as I stand with my back to a beautiful building or view, shooting a closeup of peeling paint or crumbling adobe. At times, I have been accused of disrespecting a place by showing it in a bad light. That is surely never my intention.  I simply love what nature does as it slowly converts our best efforts back to their basic elements. I am not alone in this.  In the Tucson Barrio and other parts of the Desert Southwest, you will see adobe deliberately left exposed where stucco has fallen.  Decay becomes a design element. Often, an attempt is made to clean up the edges, which inevitably makes it look contrived and not nearly as beautiful.

As we get older, nature works her destructive magic on us as well. I love photographing really old people as much as I do really old buildings.  There is a book of stories behind every crumbling wall or sagging face, wanting to be told. One of the saddest things about our species is that we breeze past, never even contemplating what these stories might be.

I just finished a remarkable book: A Conspiracy Of Truths, by Alexandra Rowland.  The protagonist is a Chant, someone who spends their life collecting and sharing stories.  Every important turn of events in the book is illustrated by a story external but relevant to the one at hand.

It is difficult to get people to tell their stories, and for me it is difficult to listen to them without judgement as well.

Listening is an invaluable skill.  One must forgo the desire to share one’s opinions or to respond in any way, giving oneself over completely to absorbing and understanding.  I am really bad at this.  I usually spend a good portion of my listening time formulating a response. It’s a very hard habit to break, especially at my ripe old age. The sad fact is, I will have less stories to tell because of it. Or maybe I will allow my walls to crumble with age, becoming more beautiful and full of stories as they do.


Both photos taken this morning in Cd. Oaxaca


4 thoughts on “The Appeal Of Decay

  1. Beautiful! Everything about this- the images, the writing, the analogies. I look forward to seeing your walls crumble down. Wink wink. And I could use to let some of mine crumble down as well. Some of them are so newly acquired it’s hard to realize their there.

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