"“I believe that when people do period films they are reliant on paintings from the period, because there is no photography. But in a painting, everything is formally composed; it’s not real life. Then they do wide shots to show off the period detail of the sets. I think that the detail is in the small things, like crumbs on a table, or flowers in a vase. I wanted to shoot the details, the visual details of living.”
(Joe Wright, Director)
Walker Evans and the Aesthetics of the Rejected Object
Stamped Tin Relic, (1929), Trash Can, (1968), Three Untitled Photographs Shot in New York, (1968), Untitled photograph shot in an unknown location, (1968), Evan’s Bedroom Washbowl photographed after his death, (1975)
Walker Evans found in the debris of contemporary society a particular kind of poetic beauty, which he seemed quite convinced Baudelaire would appreciate. He once postulated an aesthetic of ruin, of the rejected: “A ruin,” he said, “is more interesting than a freshly completed building. It shows the effect of time and experience.”
Evans systemized this aesthetic of the rejected object in a project that he carried out in the 1960’s, but whose premises are to be found in the earlier photograph, “Stamped Tin Relic” of 1929 which opened the second section of the book American Photographs. There he found that, “even the garbage can occasionally, to me at least, can be beautiful.” In this later work, he uses his camera to explore very small areas of ground, microcosms of territory, registering the minute debris they contain, the assortment of rubbish noted by the camera held absolutely straight: a lunar landscape whose uncertain scale helps to confuse recognition, rather like Marcel Duchamp’s “Elevages de Poussiere” photographed by Man Ray in 1920. Here heterogeneous objects presented with minimalistic effect sometimes recall Cy Twombly’s delicate calligraphic paintings of this period.
With this body of work, Evans contributed to a trend in contemporary photography that asserts denial of the photographic subject as an element to be given prominence. It was as if Evans, like some perverse and scrupulous detective, was setting up a police file on the trail of rotting objects at a “scene of the crime.”
One can hardly fail to see the connection between these images and those created much later by Lewis Baltz, particularly, his photographic project entitled San Quentin Point of 1985. In this, Baltz follows up, in a systematic fashion and within a different ecological perspective, Evans’ manner of photographing the unphotographable, the detritus and waste of industrial society.
- Gilles Mora, from The Hungry Eye, Abrams, (2004)
Abandoned Building 25 at Creedmoor Psychiatric Center
Located in Queens Village, New York, Building 25 at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center has sat abandoned and rotting since 1974. While all of the other buildings of the facility were sold off or demolished, this building remains. For almost four decades, Building 25 still stands, ignored and decaying.
Originally, the open land was owned by the Creed family and was purchased by the New York State Legislature in 1870 to house the New York State National Guard. After four decades of complaints about random long range bullets flying into surrounding areas, the National Guard abandoned the buildings in 1912. At that time, Creedmoor State Hospital opened as a farm colony for then Brooklyn State Hospital, with patients working on the farmland for treatment and room and board. Creedmoor was a state-run hospital for the mentally ill.
From 1918 to 1974, the population grew from several hundred to over five thousand patients. Through the decades, a large number of violent criminals were sent there and allowed to wander the grounds freely, with some easily escaping. With reports of rape, assault, suicides, fires and burglaries, the institution was out of control. In addition, complaints of patient abuse by staff and unsanitary living conditions added to the already horrid and unsafe living conditions at the hospital.
By 1974, Creedmoor Psychiatric Center was closed with all of the grounds and buildings vacated and sold, all except Building 25. To this day, the building stands abandoned and ignored by the state. Why buildings like this are allowed to stand deserted and rotting for decades can only be answered by their owners.
17th century castle, abandoned since 1976.