The Dialectics of Decay (Frankfurt Bonames Airfield)

In her critique of photography Susan Sontag points out that photographers love to depict decay. She links this preference both to a nostalgic view of the world – Roland Barthes points into a similar direction when he says that a photo takes the form of Aorist – and to aestheticizing ‘unworthy’ objects. To her, photographing decay implies marking the decaying object as beautiful. As much as I agree with the link between a photo and the past,  I ask myself if there is not more to photographing decay.

If you roughly distinguish between nature and civilization, decay could be seen as nature (re-)claiming its reign. I am always delighted with finding traces of ‘the tooth of time’ in an urban setting (or on an abandoned army airfield) because they follow laws and principles which are alien to ours.

Photographing these traces superimposes yet another structure: an aesthetic idea. A picture of a decaying object thus accumulates various layers of principles, natural and human. Incompatible as functionality, erosion and the photographer’s own ideas may seem, they are all framed in the image of a decaying object.

9 thoughts on “The Dialectics of Decay (Frankfurt Bonames Airfield)”

  1. Amazing blog!
    I think that the relationship between perception the way time is changing the shape of our environment and the constant improved visual experience is crucial for a photographer.
    Greetings from Romania!

  2. Du siehst die unendlich vielen Möglichkeiten von Linien, Strukturen und Texturen. Dazu Licht und Schatten, das ergibt immer wieder neues Spannendes. Ich mag diese Entdeckungen in deinem Blog sehr.
    LG, Martina

    1. Ganz herzlichen Dank, Martina! Du triffst den Nagel auf den Kopf; diese Aspekte interessieren mich wirklich sehr, und es freut mich, wenn die Bilder das einigermaßen vermitteln. LG, Tobias

  3. thankyou for the pictures – they are unusual – as usual in your case …
    also, it has been nice reading your comment in English – decay or not – the world is full of marvels!

    1. Charming as ever … I am glad you seem to enjoy the pictures. Thank you so much, El!

  4. Interesting —
    In a self-centered, intensely focused way, for me the principles of functionality and erosion drop away (if they ever were there in the first place) — all is beauty. Or not. All is the aesthetic idea —
    I can see how, if you put those other layers back, you increase density and texture.

    But so often decay is simply beautiful! I have to think about this —

    1. What a response! I understand it as a close look at your own experience, and I am very happy with it. And grateful too, Judith!

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