documenting decay – beauty in the breakdown

i distinctly remember my first experience with documenting decay.  in the middle 1990’s, my grandmother had moved to an assisted living facility, her health declining.  my father’s childhood home suddenly stood vacant, right next to my own, like a ghost hovering in the middle of a busy neighborhood.  i was assigned the responsibility of mowing the lawn and keeping the outside in decent shape.  on a few occasions, i would slip inside the vacant house, naturally curious.  at first, i would just sit on the couch, in quiet contemplation of the unusual circumstance; the silence was beautiful, the stillness deeply satisfying.  i reflected on the sad irony that i was spending more time in my grandmother’s house when she wasn’t around than when she was.

about the time i was enrolled in college, the electricity and water had been shut off in the home for some time.  with no heat in the harsh new england climate, the physical changes to my grandmother’s house were obvious.  the roof began to leak, the paint started to blister, the mold took root in the dark corners.  the vermin were thrilled with their accommodations.  i had a front row seat to these fascinating changes and the shutter on my camera just wouldn’t stop popping.

we see decay all around us; fallen leaves breaking down into soil as the seasons change, a rusty truck quietly rotting away in the woods behind a neighbor’s house.  it’s pervasive and so easily ignored.  yet for some, there’s beauty in decay, treasure in the silence of what once was.  for this artist, the utter lack of human activity is a visceral, sobering reminder of our impermanence in an ever-evolving time and space.  it’s an opportunity to reflect on the bigger picture, to do better, to be better, when the day-to-day seems to wear us down.

i hope you enjoy this collection of images.

villemere