In her essay Photography at the Crossroads, Berenice Abbott wrote “The Photographer creates, evolves a better, more selective, more acute seeing eye by looking ever more sharply at what is going on in the world. Photography, if it is to be utterly honest and direct, should be related to the life of the times- the pulse of today”.
I can find no better benchmark with which to gauge the success or failure of this documentary project than Abbott’s writing. At its core, the project is a direct and sharp look at the present state of suburban commercial architecture. Most of these buildings are vacant as a consequence of the current economic downturn. They represent the detritus of the postmodernist- sprawl architectural style that litters our roadways. These structures are the first to be discarded and abandoned when the economy sours.
The Postmodernist Sprawl architecture of today’s strip malls, shopping centers, and big box stores is an unintended consequence of the subtle beauty and less is more restraint of Modernism. The triumph and promise of post war Modernism soon morphed into an accepted way to develop cheap and fast suburban commercial retail zones. Form took a backseat to function. Buildings no longer mattered, and a mostly formless style of architecture developed with facades serving only as billboard advertising. Drive down any commercial highway and try to ignore the chaos of lurid signage and symbolism.
By dissecting tight slices of these buildings, I am hoping to visually capture the essence of the times in a subtle and restrained approach, without any loss of honesty. I have intentionally sought abstracted forms and a lack of depth. Many of these images take on a Cubist quality, with intersecting and sometimes confusing objective planes and ambiguous spatial relationships, although it is important to note a careful and methodical use of symmetry and balance to create a sense of calm.
The images in this series are taken on daily drives through suburbia. My day job involves driving one hundred miles or more every day through the urban/suburban sprawl of Philadelphia. I log fourteen thousand miles a year in a mostly continuous circular route while I closely observe the landscape with a photographer’s eye. I would like to think that my eye has evolved and become more selective as I study what is going on in the world and attempt to document the pulse of today.
Ten of the images from this series have been published in a hand made book entitled In These Hard Times. It is printed in a limited edition of 50 copies, signed and numbered for $20 per copy. You can purchase one here