There is something about the slow decay of the material world that transforms most things into the sublime. The first scratch in a new piece of furniture is joined by a second. Over time it becomes patina. Refinish the antique and it loses its value.
Venice is arguably the best example of the strange and powerful beauty of decay. Venice has been in general decline at least since Napoleon invaded the Venetian Republic in 1797. Yet, it's beauty is intact. It is perhaps even more stunning than it was when Venice owned the seas and the trading routes to the East. It's crumbling facades and funhouse geometry make one ache with a sense of the past. It is a feeling that all is fleeting and someday soon the most beautiful city in the world will sink back into the sea from which it came. The melancholy is overwhelming.
Photographers are always seeking this decay. We love old barns, old doors, old people. How many times have we seen the photograph of a hunched village dweller being chased by her shadow or the old lady peering out of her second-story window onto the piazza? Nothing in decline escapes the shutter of the inquisitive photographer. And we never tire of these images. They have an allure that is undeniable. Just yesterday I was traveling through one of our local villages and saw an old man sitting on a park bench. My camera was sitting next to me in the truck and it took all I had not to run out snap an image. Respect for the old guy and for the fact that I'd seen THAT shot a million times kept me on the road. No matter. I have a zillion photos of old men in my image library, all taken on days of less resolve and self-discipline.
The image here is of an old army fortification near where I live, in the coastal hills of Northern California. Old bunkers and fortifications are everywhere around here. Old military fortifications have a particularly poignant end to them. Seeing them crumble back into the earth reminds us that no conflict is permanent, all fears and defenses eventually dissolve. The fortification seen as so necessary a few short years ago is now rusted and covered with graffiti. It's death seems lonely, almost mocked by the current generation. So be it. Nothing lasts forever and nothing is final.