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Norwich State Hospital (Preston, CT) | No Matter How Far

Overgrown | Norwich State Hospital
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No matter how many places I've photographed, I've never really been happy with anything I've produced. Every time I work on a set from a location I find myself wishing I had visited the location more often, tried different angles, or that I had known more about what I was doing at the time I took the pictures. For every shot that I post on my website there are ten that I managed to butcher somehow (particularly 5+ years ago) - the focus wasn't just right, I made some other stupid mistake in the settings, the angle could have been better. I should have tried more, and worked harder. I see shots other people took at the same locations and frequently think, "How could I have missed that? It's such a logical shot to take!"

There are photographers out there so in love with themselves they believe whenever they take a picture they have produced the definitive statement on a subject, who are so enamored with their own reflection that they think the only relevant story about a given location is their own. Sometimes I wish I were that way. Maybe it would spare me from the nagging dissatisfaction that makes it hard to accept compliments and constantly leaves me feeling guilty because I have failed to measure up to whatever impossible goal it is that my heart has set for me in terms of what this effort is meant to accomplish. On the other hand, I also believe improvement is born of need and need is by definition not being satisfied with how things are. If you aren't constantly looking critically at what you're doing and testing for weaknesses and ways to improve, you won't improve. Arrogance learns nothing because it feels it already knows all there is.

I have progressed to a point where I make far fewer technical mistakes now and know how to counteract most errors, but it doesn't rescue old sets or bring back locations from the landfill. The vision of what I want to accomplish with what I do is always off in the distance and I'm always running to try to catch it, but it's still so far away no matter how far I get. Maybe part of it is that you hope to capture the soul of a place in an image, a part of what makes it so special and magical at the time you're there, and an image only goes so far with that. When a place is destroyed no amount of images can replace it. The frozen, two dimensional facsimile can't allow for the same interaction, the same discovery, the variance in lighting in mood throughout even a single day let alone multiple seasons and years. It's like a picture of a loved one you've lost; there is no more opportunity for you to know them as a person, and when you look to the scraps you have left they always leave so much to be desired.

Norwich State Hospital, Preston CT

Photograph by Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America. If you'd like to learn more about this location, it is a featured chapter in the new Abandoned America book Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences. Signed copies are available through my website, or you can find (unsigned) copies available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many other online booksellers across the globe.

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