Field Trips

Ruins Photography

There are some points of view missing in the debate on ruins photography.

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An article on ruins photography primed my point of view on recent drives through NSW.  My camera started pointing itself at old stuff. Not difficult as we are surrounded by an assortment of degrading and decaying history.

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Goonumbla NSW

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Broken Windmill, Boorowa Road NSW

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Gooloogong NSW

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The article was presented by Radio National and it asked “What are the ethics of ‘ruin porn’?”  I was initially startled because I love pictures of old buildings, old machinery, old … anything … but I wouldn’t have called it ruin porn.

The reference to porn is, in my view, designed to alarm and startle. In the internet world, they call it click-bait. Something to snatch at our attention.

Nevertheless, I agree that there should be a lively debate on where to draw the line. At one end, there is the legitimate documentary that becomes the precursor for social change. At the other end, there’s our increasingly voyeuristic society, always looking at something and often for no good reason.

However, in the debate about the legitimacy of ruins photography, those extremes overlook the likes of me.  I grew up surrounded by the beautiful patina of age, where surfaces of working objects wore their history, where I could compare the gleaming steel of the new farm building with the sturdy irregularity of those we inherited; one sitting precise in its grid, the other solid in its connection to earth.

It’s not voyeurism when I point a camera at old buildings. They are a part of my identity, and it doesn’t matter where they are located.

For me, there’s another extreme – items that have degraded only because they are cheap. There is nothing sturdy or reliable about them. They are a sad indication of short-sightedness at a time when investment was required.

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No Bill Posters Sign, Dickson ACT

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