Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Kids Are Alright


Copyright Matias Aguilar 2010

The other week I came across an interesting ruin by the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Although in recent years the city has transformed the Brooklyn Navy Yard more or less successfully to an industrial park, a few buildings on the northeast corner of the Brooklyn Navy Yard have been left there to rot away. You could tell that the ivy-clad house obscured by a tree had been abandoned at least for a decade or two, if not more. I decided to return later with my camera to take pictures in hope of finding interesting subjects in close proximity. So when I arrived at the ruin again armed with my camera I noticed that a group of kids was passing by in front of the ruin. Right at that moment I took a picture. I was grateful. I went to a site without expecting awfully much to take pictures of and was handed an interesting moment in return. And I am thankful that actually there is humor in the juxtaposition of the kids with the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Without the kids I must admit, it would have been the lamest of lamest pictures. But even with the kids the symbolism is not really that earth-shattering. In fact, it isn’t a great picture at all. But in my defense I must state that it probably would have been nearly impossible to pull it off. By now we all know that photographs of abandoned buildings as a result of our depressing state of the economy is the most overdone shtick for socially conscious and concerned artists. Sometimes I wonder what kind of noble aims drives us to take pictures of ruins? Is it an infantile creepy shiver that runs down our backs or is it a romantic notion of projecting our pessimism on our beloved city? No matter how skillful the photo, to me a politically conscious photographer automatically falls flat the moment he or she infuses the romantic into the social concern. If an important goal is that pictures should make the viewer aware of the problems of the toiling poor and underprivileged working communities in need to be salvaged by an impending green economy revolution then a moody, large format depiction of a run down commercial facility might not be the most successful medium of choice.