Vanishing City is a visual documentary about redevelopment in Newark, New Jersey. Through this series, I document the beauty behind decay, destruction, and possible rebirth.
I am witness to the frighteningly beautiful decay of my city’s cultural heritage. An abandoned barge slowly sinks in murky waters. A former factory tumbles before the wrecking ball. A sea of weeds lays siege to a vacant home. An empty lot is a gaping hole, a missing tooth, in the urban body. As a wall crumbles to the ground, a tree, firmly anchored to the wall, reaches for the sky. While my city’s industrial past slowly succumbs to demolition, new buildings grow from old lots.
Behind this slow decay, there is a hidden beauty in the transient. It is the realization that what was built to last forever, will not last. It is the expectation that the destruction of the past could contain the seeds of a better city. I hope that someday the history of the built environment will become cherished in its entirety because a city is lifeless without culture and history.
When one visits the ruins of past civilizations, such as Greece, Carthage, and Rome, one sees them as shards of memory. Their grandeur comes not from seeing them intact but from imagining them as they once were; grandeur lost is often more evocative than grandeur still extant. These ruins are powerful because of their decay, not in spite of it.
The battered past should inform the present. I look at the built world of today and ask: Will the monuments we erect to culture and capitalism endure? The Greek forum became a symbol for democracy; could the same destiny await our society’s equivalent “forums,” the strip mall, grocery store, and drive-thru? What will the future remember us by?
My transient urban environment compels me to examine and re-examine my sense of place before it vanishes from memory.