25 March 2011

Mirror to the World: Notes on Locations

Each photographer in the Mirror to the World show provided a brief statement to accompany their images. Below is the text from mine, which includes notes on the locations represented. The show remains up at Photoworks at Glen Echo Park through April 17. More info and gallery hours here.

Mark Parascandola

My first experiences with photography were associated with abandoned architecture. When I was about 12, I received a small German camera with a 110 film cartridge as a gift from a family friend. At the time, a department store was being demolished in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, where we lived. I filled a whole roll of film with images that juxtaposed store signs and architectural details with formless rubble. I continue to be fascinated with old, abandoned buildings today and what they can tell us about how human communities change and interact with the natural world. Here are notes on the locations in these photos:

Carabanchel: In October 2008 I photographed the interior of the former Carabanchel prison in Madrid, one of the most infamous architectural landmarks from Spain’s decades of dictatorship. General Francisco Franco ordered construction of the complex in the 1940s to house the regime’s many political prisoners. After the prison was finally closed in 1998, the building became a haven for squatters, graffiti artists, and curious visitors. A month after my visit the entire structure was demolished to make way for a new urban development.

Santa Isabel: In 1966 John Lennon spent three months in Almeria, on the southern coast of Spain, while he played the role of Private Gripweed in the black comedy How I Won the War. John and his then-wife Cynthia rented a villa, known as Santa Isabel, from a wealthy local family. It was here that Lennon began writing the verses to Strawberry Fields Forever. The grand house later fell into disrepair, but has recently been reopened as a museum of cinema. This photograph of the entry hall was taken just before the renovations started.

Los Escullos: The landscape of the Cabo de Gata natural park, along the coast of Almeria, is dotted with architectural remains from the times of the Moors to relics of modern industrialization. The photograph here shows an 18th century fortification at night.

The Buckner Building: The Buckner Building in Whittier, Alaska, an enormous complex built in 1953, housed an entire town under one roof, including a theater, industrial kitchens, and medical clinics. Today the unused building is rapidly deteriorating due to flooding and exposure to weather conditions. The presence of asbestos has thwarted efforts to demolish it. I was intrigued by how the building is being rapidly transformed by its surrounding environment.

Miami Marine Stadium: The stadium was built in 1964 to host power boat and hydroplane races off Key Biscayne. A floating stage was later used to host outdoor concerts and other events over the years. However, the site was closed in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew and has remained unused and largely unnoticed off the Rickenbacker Causeway. I was struck by the almost perfect orderliness of the stadium seating, broken only by a few disjointed seats and the tagging of local graffiti artists.  

Belmont Street Facade: In 2008 an old apartment building near the corner of Belmont and 14th street was gutted for renovation while the facade was held up with supports. I photographed the construction site at night and was intrigued by the unusual patterns of light and shadow and the complex textures in the century-old wall. Unfortunately, the effort to save the facade failed and it was later torn down.

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