Thursday, February 4, 2010

34/365: Tramway

34/365: Tramway
34/365: Tramway, originally uploaded by Magic Madzik.
February 3rd

Sunshine! Sunshine! Can you believe it? To think I almost went to the cemetery to take dreary pictures of graves in the snow. This is the most colourful photograph I've taken this year, it makes me happy.

I don't know why I love Lodz so much. I would like to think that I am not so obnoxious as to adore this city for its filth; that is a stage common to first-year film students, but I graduated three years ago and should have been cured by now. It is only natural, when you're young and artistically disposed, to find beauty in every graffiti'd brick wall and see the deep agony of life in every drunken face, to want to show the world an image of real and brutal life however little experience your teenage self might have with it.

The thing is, while often morbidly beautiful, the decay of an environment and its inhabitants are not aspects of a community that should be admired. The sense of pride you get from living in a neighbourhood which many people would consider dangerous, where you regularly see vandalism, thuggery and drunks passed out in the street, is quite misplaced. Should I not be infinitely more proud of the newly renovated art museum around the corner? And, as a newcomer to this city, with only three out of seven years spent in this particular neighbourhood, am I even entitled to either feeling of pride?


Condemned Rainbow

I wasn't born here. I never struggled with poverty, never had to watch my city decay from lack of investments and the citizen's disillusion. Indeed, I come from the nearby capital which often looks down on Lodz in disdain, and calls it 'the province', 'the outskirts', a city not really worth the title. What used to be an industrial monster called the Promised Land ended up as a pit of unemployment, and the early morning weekday trains to Warsaw were full of stereotypes- poor, hard-working people who came to the capital to work in retail or the food industry, but could not afford to live there.

Entry forbidden
This is changing rapidly. I am glad. I do not think that it is right or in any way valuable to have condemned buildings lined up along the main streets. I do not want the XIXth century architecture which survived the war to waste away because of lack of care. I do not want people to hate the beautiful old houses they live in because they were never fitted with proper plumbing or heating; I do not want to see those houses demolished because nothing more can be done to make them inhabitable.

Still, for all I know they are dangerous and worthless, I find them beautiful. But I abhorr the idea of this affinity for decay being considered 'edgy', if only because it is not at all unique. The truth is I feel guilty when I walk into ragged courtyards, snapping away with my expensive camera at something other people call their daily hardship. It feels as if I were approving of the filth and ignoring the people who have to live with it- admiring the unusual, cruel beauty of a thought-provoking scene without actually allowing any thoughts to be provoked. Pathology is elevated to art- because when the photograph contains poverty or disease, it gains meaning. What meaning, exactly? No one can tell.

So it doesn't fall.


"They're slums," a woman shoveling snow told me today as I took pictures of her courtyard. "Just slums." I felt like a rich tourist in the third world- you know the kind, the one that books a three star holiday in Africa and comes back with a photograph of some dirty, local bead-selling child thinking they've 'seen the world'.

I suppose my excuse is I want these slums to be gone, but I would also like pictures of them before they disappear.

1 comment:

  1. I thought this was a really thoughtful post that raised some interesting questions.

    I've been thinking about this a bit from a different perspective. I think I tend to whitewash my world. Rundown trailers and cars on cinder blocks are as common here as all the pretty things I photograph, and I think by my choices, I may be showing something of a lie. My own house is not something I'd share with you, except in the exact right light (we're nowhere near a trailer, but we inherited vinyl siding and have not taken as good care of our property as we thought we would). I wanted to talk about this on on the photojojo forum, but it's been down for so long.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...