UrbanWeird Photography
Piscine Horror #2.jpg

Photo Sketchbook

Thoughts on general photography and personal photographic process.

Dilapidation's Beauty

Peeling Away

Here is my main essay from my latest issue of UrbanWeird Photo, which can be found by clicking on the link "UWP magazine" the top. 

Living in an uber-urban environment such as Tokyo, one naturally becomes accustomed to the dilapidation of the old. The City is constantly renewing, but can never keep up with its aging process. There will always be things that are rundown, seen better days, and just falling apart.

Urban dilapidation is one theme that runs through my work and will pop up as a major theme in UWP from time to time. A more common term is “urban decay”, but I prefer ‘dilapidation’ simply because I like the sound of the actual word (despite the fact that is has taken me forever to learn how to spell it correctly in one go). However, ‘decay’ is also appropriate as well since it has a more biological connotation, and I believe that The City is a hybrid being; both biological and mineral-mechanical.

Because I see The City from this viewpoint, there is a kind of emotional pang that happens within me when I see an old dilapidated building almost ‘spilling’ out onto the street; its crumbling cracking cement skin littering the gutters and alleyways. This pang is due to the life story of the structure, either documented or made up in my head, and its place in the surrounding block or neighbourhood.

I start asking questions, e.g., “What was it like when just constructed?”, “Who lived/worked inside over the decades?”, and “Will it still be here tomorrow?”. The last question is not an over-exaggeration. I have taken several photos of such dilapidated structures that are no longer there. The City constantly changes, and the same is true for dilapidation. Dilapidated buildings are replaced with new clean structures (or, unfortunately, boring parking lots), but the new never stays that way for long. There is a constant cycle of sparkling new and grungy dilapidation going on in The City.

The combination of sparkle and grunge is one of the dichotomies that make The City interesting to live in and photographically document. Dilapidation adds texture to The City. I am not saying that the new does not; I love the new as well. Give me a tall glass skyscraper and I could photograph if for days. But if it were all one; sparkle or grunge, then that one aspect would lose its appeal.