Posts Tagged ‘entropy’

Entropic Appeal

I’ve written about this before, in my Broken Down article.  Old things fascinate me.  There’s something both sad and heartening to see the effects of life as time goes on, both human life and all the other forms that we share our spaces with.

Anyway, this is a link repository of some more fascinating photo collections of beat up, run down places and things.

Abandoned Areas (Twitter feed)

Abandoned Olympic Venues

Abandoned but Beautiful

Abandoned Places

Abandoned Places 2

Abandoned Places Around the World

Abandoned Places LiveJournal

Abandoned Places.com (navigation is a bit wonky, but they have more details about the places, which is cool)


Keelung Taiwan

Maunsell Sea Forts

Nara Dreamland

Spectacular Abandoned Places

Swallowed By Nature

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I got a new camera yesterday.

I’m joining the digital SLR ranks with a Canon Rebel T3.  Also on order, a white umbrella, some slave flashes, and a remote control (all the better for those “bulb” extended exposures like star shots and light painting).  Then, I’m going shopping for supplies to build some do-it-myself tripods for the flashes and umbrella (I’m thinking of bugging the local hospitals to see if they have old IV stands for sale/free, and maybe repurposing some old office chairs and such), and maybe even setting up a muslin backdrop and tie dyeing it with the leftovers from the Great Dice Experiment.

So what’s the first big photo shoot?  Something old, if I can help it.  That’s just where my mind inevitably goes when I think “explore and take pictures“.

Maybe not a trip to Pripyat or Battleship Island (though those would be awesome to go shoot in, the ol’ budget isn’t too kind to such ideas), and I missed the time window for Kowloon (though I’d be afraid of what I’d find there), but there are a few ghost towns around here I can get to without a ton of travel.  That’s one nice thing about living in the western U.S.; there are a lot of old prospecting towns out in the deserts and mountains, so there’s plenty to see beyond taking panorama sets of the terrain itself.  This new camera even has some HDR potential, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with that.

Yes, that means I’ll be taking photos of the Real World instead of adding to my 9,000+ MMO screenshots, but I hear that “fresh air” is good for you.  Maybe it’s time to find out.

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I love photographs of old, broken stuff and places.  I’m not sure if it’s the photographer in me or just a pining for the past I never knew, but modern photographs of old or broken things are some of my favorite visuals to study.  They make for great story fodder and reference material, too.

I find photos of failed construction projects to be similarly fascinating.  This, for example, is a composite shot of a failed building project near my home.  This is one of two giant apartment/business combo buildings that was started during the housing boom.  It was never something our community even needed in the first place, but the housing bubble broke and the construction company simply ran out of money.  (They were counting on preselling $1,000,000 condos to finance the construction… in our community where $200,000 will buy a good sized family home and the average salary is $45,000/year or so.  Yeah, they didn’t really understand math.)  It’s a blight on our main thoroughfare, a testament to bad economics and stupendous lack of foresight.  And yet it remains.  Unfinished, untended, unnecessary.

Failed Building Construction

I wrote about this before in my Falling Apart article.  I highly recommend going and checking that out, as it carries the bulk of the philosophical rumination I might offer in this vein, and better, some really cool photos and links.

In the meantime, I’ve been collecting links to other fascinating collections of photographs in the same vein; busted buildings, urban decay and varied displays of the ravages of time.  Some of it may be politically or socially charged, at least in the implications, some of it might simply be due to the inexorable march of time.  Some of it, like the Chinese ghost cities, the ruins of Prypiat or the Winchester Mystery House, is ripe for storytelling, whether digging into the actual stories or riffing on reality for fictional fun.

Much of it is somber, sad and even tragic.  Sometimes it’s creepy, and the realities can be appalling.  Still, it’s fascinating, and it invokes musings on mortality and the meaning of life and why we do what we do.  Is it more important to have lived well or to have left something behind?  What is the most important mark of our passage in this mortal coil?  …is it important at all?  What if death were unhinged, what then?  What can those who have gone before teach us today?  Do we care, or do we keep making the same dumb mistakes, only to see our work on the scrap heap of history?

China’s Abandoned Wonderland

via Washington Post

via Reuters

via National Geographic

Chinese Ghost Cities

via Business Insider

via Ritholtz

via Time

New South China Abandoned Mall

via Skyscraper Page

Abandoned Asian Architectural Wonders

via Web Urbanist

Prypiat and Chernobyl

via Village of Joy

via Retronaut

Yugoslavian Monuments

via Flooby Nooby

Winchester Mystery House

via Wikipedia

via the ‘House’s own website

Surreal places in the Real World

via Quora.com

Decay Photography Challenges

via Digital Photography School

via The Photo Argus


via The Photo Argus

Dark Stores (abandoned stores and malls)

via Brian Ulrich 

via Urban Ghosts media

Randall Park Mall (huge, empty mall)

via Flikr

also via Flikr

And just for fun…

Decaying Victorian Buildings… in LEGO.

As in, this Mike Doyle fellow built these to look broken down.  Crazy stuff.

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In my more meditative moods, I find myself inexorably drawn to photographs of entropy, and vistas that clearly show the ravages of time.

Perhaps it started when I was very young, and one of the most interesting road trips my family took was one to an old abandoned town.  I don’t remember much of it, just that I found it endlessly fascinating to explore and look around at the old “ghost” buildings.  Old windows, thicker at the bottom than at the top, showed the age and resilience of hand-crafted homes, ignored by looters.  The relics of a forgotten people and a forgotten age resonated with me, by all accounts an extraordinarily somber and introspective child.

Some people find these things depressing.  Some of the photos from this fascinating photo diary of a decaying Detroit can certainly be on the more gloomy side, if one is inclined to think along those lines.  This collection of photographs from a local ghost town (Eureka, UT) might be empty at first glance, but then, there are stories to be told there.  These artifacts of a not-so-long-ago culture aren’t just spawned ex nihilo, they are evidence that people lived, loved and dreamed.  I find that curiously uplifting and hopeful, not depressing.  People did the best with what they had and then moved on.  Time isn’t an enemy, it’s just part of life.

Perhaps that’s the key for me.  I don’t imagine the pain and the loss involved in the inevitable mortality of man and the works of man’s hands, I consider the good times.  I look at the things that get left behind and wonder why they weren’t taken along.  I wonder why that building was built, and why the road bends over there.  It’s an occasion to exercise my imagination and whimsy, taking a mental journey to those days when a home was new and a family moved in in excitement, or a theater proudly enticed the town to a evening of entertainment.  I imagine the music that once echoed in a dance hall, or the smells that filled a diner.  I listen for the whispers of ghosts, telling stories of their glory days and remembering their loved ones, happy with how they lived, not mourning that they are no longer doing so.

Mortality for me is a curious blend of living in the moment, wistfully remembering and honoring the past, and wishfully thinking ahead.  I believe that we need to understand as much of the full spectrum of time as possible, that the past has a great deal to teach the present, and that looking ahead means little without understanding where we’ve been and where we are.

There’s also a curious fascination I have with just how time and nature ravage the things we so often erect in hubris, monuments to our own ego.  It’s almost like, as a species, we spit in the face of reality and try to bend nature to our whim, but no matter how much we believe we are masters of all we survey, we always lose in the long run.  Nature operates on a geological time scale, and we’re just a blip in the calendar.  It breaks us and grinds us down in very interesting ways, but somehow, we fight the good fight anyway.

Disasters are also fascinating.  From the very-close-to-home, very real loss of a cherished historical building like the Provo Tabernacle to the vast fictional spread of dystopic storytelling in various media, I am deeply interested in how time and entropy leave their mark.  Sometimes we bring destruction on ourselves, sometimes it just happens, sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it’s slow, but in the end, everything falls apart.

I find it fascinating to see how other people lived and what they prioritized.  There are usually lessons to be learned.

This is why I love looking through photographs of ancient Greece or the not-quite-so-ancient Scotland.  It’s why I love taking photographs of old things and even just nature and how it falls apart.  A newly built city, all shining glass and metal, bling and bluster, neon and noise… it’s just not very interesting.  It’s complex and intricate, yes, but it’s… sterile.  It’s not “lived in” or loved, it’s just a facade.  (In a nutshell, the Millennium Falcon is far more interesting than Queen Amidala’s mirror ship.)  It can even be creepy, as Mirror’s Edge (and plenty of other fiction) tries to illustrate.  Clean just doesn’t stay clean on a large scale without some extraordinary statist efforts.  This also echoes the Uncanny Valley effect; real people have many, many small flaws that fabricated people just don’t have, from quirks of movement to freckles, wrinkles and asymmetry.  Our faces show the effects of time in quirky ways, and it’s fiendishly hard to fake that.

This is also very fertile ground for storytelling and even game narrative.  There’s a huge amount of story that can be hinted at by crafting worlds that look lived in rather than pristine.  After all, here in the Real World, we don’t live in a world that started with our birth, we’re just one player on an aged stage that existed long before us and will go on long after we’re gone.  There’s a strong sense of place and presence to be found in sifting through the evidences of the past.

Especially if they are falling apart.

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