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Down the Charred Black Corridor: An Abandoned America Blog

Posted: 28th August 2012
In: Blog

I'm not very good with people.

I know that probably comes as a huge surprise since I spend as much time as I can in places where they are completely absent, but as I have got older maintaining friendships and making connections seems to have grown increasingly difficult. Maybe it's that I work too much, and I would rather spend time editing or trying to catch up on other things related to my photography than I would going to a bar or club. Maybe it's because I have a difficult time keeping on top of replying to correspondence and phone calls, and I have an even harder time initiating contact with people. I like the 'fire and forget' nature of electronic communication like posting photographs on Facebook, but even then, while I read everything people say and think about it, I often don't really know what to contribute beyond my original statement.

Maybe it's that I have a hard time forgiving people and forgiving myself. Little things bother me, like when people always talk and never listen, when they have no ethics, or when they are inconsiderate. Big things bother me, like when people are intolerant and bigoted, when they are selfish, when they have no commitment to bettering themselves or the people around them, when they lie, when they don't bother trying to understand themselves or their world. I can at times be a harsh and unfair judge and it's something that makes me difficult to be around, but for as hard as I am on others I am much worse on myself. Somewhere in my mind there is a record kept of every stupid or ignorant thing I've ever done or said, and this part delights in replaying these moments over and over for me. It may have just been something clumsy or awkward I did or said, like mispronouncing someone's name, or it may be bigger things that I keep to myself but hang around my neck like an albatross. The times when I let people down or broke their hearts weigh on me heavily, and I have learned that keeping to myself is the easiest solution. If I think you might hurt me or I might hurt you, I probably will just go silent and stay out of contact (which is indistinguishable from my general poorness with correspondence sometimes). Usually it's not because I don't care about the person I'm not contacting, but because I do: maybe there's something unresolved and I don't trust my temper, or maybe I just feel overwhelmed by their needs and I know I can't meet them.

Whatever the case may be, it leads to a good amount of isolation. There are many times when I am around others and I feel perfectly fine and confident, but there are also points where I just feel out of place and useless. Large gatherings and parties where I don't know many people are a good example. Certainly many people feel this way, but opting out is and leaving is the choice I make with more and more frequency. This electronic nowhere is where I belong, I think: in this flurry of disembodied words broadcast from some secret place inside my heart and mind, in a series of images that have many layers of meaning to me including the ever-widening absence around me. If there is anything you respect about my work, know that this is the well I draw from.

If you don't understand this on a personal level, I doubt anything here will ever make complete sense to you. You may find images of old buildings intriguing because they are pretty, or for their history, or because they seem like a good place to have an adventure - but if you look at the fire-blasted remains of something once thriving and full of life and don't actually know that place in your spirit, I don't know that it's really something I can communicate. Or, maybe you do, and maybe that's why you visit my work - because you know I understand it too, and that all of this effort is to turn that weakness into something useful and beneficial. Maybe you know that the places I photograph are an external representation of that, bared for the world to see, and that in my relationship with them (and yours also, whatever that might be) there is an acceptance of it.

I was at this abandoned china plant a year ago, on a nice summer afternoon. I could have been swimming or at a barbecue or whatever normal people do on nice, sunny days. Instead I came and spent time alone with a place I knew and loved for its disrepair, and mourned for the devastation the recent blaze in it had caused. It was a loss, but I didn't turn away from it. I tried to look at it carefully and find what I could in the little that was left that was still interesting and could tell the story of what happened. When you look at this photograph, it isn't just evidence that the place was and that it was as you see it, it was also evidence that I existed there too, in the shadows and looking down the charred black corridor into the far off sunlight streaming in from the obliterated end of the hallway.

That's what I do.

Photograph and text by Matthew Christopher, taken at Conquistador China.

If you're interested in more Abandoned America blogs, follow this link. If you enjoy my writing, check out my books: Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream (Amazon / Barnes & Noble) or Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences (Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Signed copies).
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Photo comment By Wendy: Hi Matthew, I just have to tell you: you are positively (+) unique in the world. Not only do you take the most beautiful photographs, but you have the ability to describe your thoughts and emotions with such poetry, sadness, and deep human understanding. Your words touch me, and in combination with your photos I am profoundly moved. You definitly exist in your photos; I see you there. I feel you. What does it matter that you write these words on your blog? It makes those of us who are lucky enough to read them feel a deep "Ah Ha!". Like we found someone else out there who has put words to many of our own feelings about other people and realizes the world cannot support what we humans are doing to it. Thank you for your endless hours and dedication to your craft. Alot of us are not good with people; the fact that you write how you feel and send it off into the stratosphere is bold. Please keep doing it. You matter to me. Warmly, ~Wendy in Austin, TX

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