This last Fall, I kinda followed the progress in the construction of a new wall and stairs of an apartment complex in my neighborhood, documenting some of it with photos.
Repair of the wall was a long time coming. It had gotten so bad that I was almost afraid to walk past it for fear that it would burst, and all the earth, junipers, iron fencing, and building sitting atop would avalanche, burying me right along with passing cars.
Noting that the largest crack in the wall was actually moving outward about half an inch a day, I started to record the wall’s deterioration with my little cheapy, digital camera. Every day for 4 days, I took a picture.
On the 5th day, I came down the walk to find that the wall was gone, and the property had been cordoned off with orange plastic fencing. There was a great hole, and I couldn’t imagine living in that corner of the building without worrying that the floor was going to fall through. I took a picture.
I found the process of repair fascinating. In order to construct a wall stable enough to hold back tons and tons of earth, they had to secure a foundation, which meant tearing out the existing sidewalk, along with the flight of stairs leading up into the building. The whole yard looked like a bomb had taken it out. No lawn, no sidewalk, no stairs…the demolished wall was in piles 8-feet high, in the yard and out in the street. I took more pictures.
Forms for the wall’s foundation were built, concrete was poured, and left to set for a week. Then, they went through the process all over again for the wall itself. A great 7-foot vertical, wooden face, gridded, and sprouting with rebar stood for weeks in the wind and snow, while the concrete inside hardened and cured. I wanted to document the small changes…snow on this day, ice on the next…the movement of dirt and broken concrete, hauled away bit by bit. The photos could have been in black and white, except for the plastic – orange fencing and traffic cones to warn off the curious. But still, I took pictures.
Then finally the forms came down. And the welders came, moving in their auras of arcing blue and white sparkle…they strung the yard with black shiny iron…a new fence along the top of the wall, a guardrail for the new wheelchair-accessible sidewalk, and handrails for the stairs. Naturally, I took pictures.
All these pictures, weeks of pictures - 2MB files, dozens and dozens, and I never really looked closely at any of them. It was enough to know that I’d made the captures...until they started filling up my hard-drive and hogging my laptop’s RAM. I noticed that my Public Pictures folder was taking a long time to load. So I organized…I decided to choose, to search for favorites, and delete the rest. A tedious job to be sure, opening each and every photograph…
Bits of glass; bits of pink; bits of crack.
Even such ultra-large pixel shots don’t look like much when you see them in the camera’s window. They don’t look like much when transferring to the files on your computer, either. But honey, when you actually open them up, they fill your entire screen, and you see things you didn’t even know were there in the shot when you made the original capture – Like where the sun has slipped under pebbles of glass, the tiny streaks of pink in what you thought were plain bits of orange plastic…and in the shadows of a stairwell, a young man’s pants held not by his hips, but by his thighs.