Friday, May 6, 2022

If Buildings Could Talk

Old buildings have always captivated me. During my first year of marriage, I took photographs of old buildings and nothing else. My new husband had bought our first Ricoh camera, and I would snap photos through the car window wherever we traveled.

“Why are you always wasting film on those dilapidated structures?” my husband would ask. Yes, film! We've been married a long time. I couldn’t explain my obsession with ancient edifices in a way that justified the expense to him, but it made perfect sense to me.

Long ago–by American standards, not European standards–someone in another lifetime employed the expense, effort, and expertise to erect a house, barn, store, shed, church, or service station. Each structure represents history and lives lived. If it could talk, just imagine the stories it would tell, stories of birth, death, and everything in between. 

As I study my snapshots (now taken with a cell phone), I am intrigued by tales I can only imagine. I want to ponder the reason for each building’s construction, who lived or worked there, and why they abandoned it. Does its history include romance, friendship, and family? Was it once cared for with paint, regular maintenance, and necessary repairs? Did it provide ample shelter or livelihood for someone? Could it have housed more than one set of occupants or generations? Who were they? How did they look? How did they dress? How did they speak, think, and act? 

To me, buildings possess character and personality. Like older people, geriatric buildings are worth getting to know because they have stories to tell. Sitting with them is like reading a book set in another time and place. It opens new vistas and expands one’s understanding of humanity. 

When I spot an old abandoned building, my imagination soars as my mind’s eye recreates possible plots, characters, scenarios, and even motivations associated with its history. 

Why do I care? It must be the writer in me. 

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