Things Fall Apart (2001-2007)

“It is thus that we are warned at each step of our nothingness, man goes to meditate on the ruins of emptiness, he forgets that he himself is a ruin still more unsteady, and that he will fall before these remains do.” - Chateaubriand

Looking at ruins has a long cultural history, particularly in poetry and painting. Traditionally, the contemplation of ruins signified the contemplation of mortality – both of the society and of the self. Starting in the 17th century, the Grand Tourists visited the ruins of former civilizations to be reminded that even the mightiest of empires would eventually become “time’s shipwreck”. If the seemingly indestructible stone buildings of ancient Rome succumbed to armies, natural disasters and decay, why wouldn’t they? Witnessing the destruction of cities and the wreckage of our built enviornments, we too are reminded that we, and everything we’ve created, are transitory and impermanent.

As the name indicates, a natural disaster is a normal occurrence, a standard way that the earth regulates itself. However, because of our unprecedented impact on the environment, these events have become catastrophically severe, frequent and deadly. As the systems that cause the earth to warm continue to affect each other, the feedback loops they create may render the decline irreversible. The presence of the ruins left in the wake of these disasters may become less of an exception than the rule.

Things Fall Apart is a series of photographs of destruction caused by natural disasters in India, the US, Indonesia and Thailand. Using the genre of landscape photography, a tradition born with and used to celebrate industrial expansion, these photographs evidence the fragility of the man-made as it is transformed into dreamscapes of apocalyptic proportions. I derive a guilty pleasure from witnessing and representing ruins. Images of destruction are beautiful because there is pleasure in knowing a kind of truth, the truth of fragility and impermanence. But there is suffering buried in these images, the suffering of others, and by extension, of ourselves.