Arrested Decay

Arrested Decay © Harold Davis
Arrested Decay © Harold Davis

In the eastern California ghost town of Bodie the curatorial choice has been made to leave things in a state of “arrested decay.” Notionally, this means that dwellings in Bodie should be more-or-less as they were when the town became a “ghost” in 1942. In other words, perhaps this living room is just as it was when the last survivors slipped out to move to somewhere more hospitable. Bodie sits in the high desert of the great basin that lies east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Harsh in the winters, hot in the summers, there cannot have been much in the way of opportunities once the mining dried up.

In reality, I suspect that arrested decay began when the State park took over. Meaning, the last residents slipped out to move somewhere with take-out food, the houses sat exposed to the environment for 35 years or so, and then the suspended animation began. If our civilization falls under the weight of its own inanities, injustices and environmental follies is this what some small sample of our times will look like caught in arrested decay following decades of…decay? And, who will curate? Where is the intelligent and benign alien race that will save us from ourselves?

Arrested decay, in Bodie or elsewhere, makes great grist for HDR—High Dyanamic Range—photography. It turns out that conventional HDR works very well in rendering textures—and arrested decay is nothing if not textural with moldy wallpaper, dusty floors, and a menu of sumptuous divergent surfaces not seen in normal life.

Related story: Moonrise over Bodie.

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