We are our ancestors. The spiritual umbilicus is apparent to all. The dead look upon us with the pure love of a mother’s gaze. But the dead love us even more because of our flawed flesh and eternal confusion. The removal from form allows for total and complete unconditional love. We carry our dead with us like helium balloons. There is no breaking the umbilicus.
― Tanya Tagaq, Split Tooth
That black, maddening firmament; that vast cosmic ocean, endlessly deep in every direction, both Heaven and Pandemonium at once; mystical Zodiac, speckled flesh of Tiamat; all that is chaos, infinite and eternal. And yet, it’s somehow the bringing to order of this chaos which perhaps has always disturbed me most. The constellations, in their way, almost bring into sharper focus the immensity and insanity of it all – monsters and giants brought to life in all their gigantic monstrosity; Orion and Hercules striding across the sky, limbs reaching for lightyears, only to be dwarfed by the likes of Draco, Pegasus, or Ursa Major. Then bigger still – Cetus, Eridanus, Ophiuchus, and Hydra, spanning nearly the whole of a hemisphere, sunk below the equator in that weird underworld of obscure southern formations. You try to take them in – the neck cranes, the eyes roll, and the mind boggles until this debilitating sense of inverted vertigo overcomes you…”
―Mark X., Citations: A Brief Anthology, edited by Jasper Siegel Seneschal
During our lifetime, places that are special to us either change or become abandoned, decay and disappear. Visiting places that we used to inhabit is disorienting, as feelings of absence and loss mix with poignant memories, both happy and sad.
Photographer Rebecca Bathory, née Litchfield, seeks out neglected places, capturing a sense of this disorientation on a communal scale and documenting what remains of the memories of forgotten people and defunct communities. Her work is often identified as dark tourism photography. Some of her images have a romantic element that borders on the mythological, a power equal to those of more famous buildings in ruin, but much more unique. Many of these places will not survive the ravages of time much longer and there is no one who cares to preserve them. They are structures humanity passes everyday without much thought, their windows boarded shut, languishing and rotting behind tall fences and locked gates, marked only by signs that warn us to keep out. We are conditioned not to see them, but they have stories to tell. Rebecca has gained entry to them for us, bringing back surreal images that stir up buried emotion. These images not only have much to say about our ancestors and the world in which they lived, they also help us comprehend and come to terms with our own future.
The Show Must Go On
Symphony of Silence
All That Remains
Thy Kingdom Come
These powerful photographs are from a collection called Presence of Absence. Although the places pictured are empty, the memory of their inhabitants lingers, slipping away slowly in dark corners, fading from our world. What a precious thing, to catch a piece of human history before it is forgotten!
The Cavern of Lost Souls
Rebecca, who holds degrees in photography and graphic design, is currently pursuing a PHD in visual anthropology, linking her images with those of a century of documentary photographers and expanding her reach into new media and visual forms. Please spend some time on her website, where you can also order prints or a copy of her book, Soviet Ghosts.
I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was – I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.
In November 2007, Christoph Rehage set out to walk from Beijing, on the far eastern side of China, to Germany. One year and 4500 miles later, scruffy and tired, he stopped his journey in western China at the city of Ürümqi. Cristoph took some breaks to visit family, but, even so, the journey across China was grueling and the mountains and the desert took their toll on his mind and body. This is a stunning video which documents the change in his appearance and attitude during the journey. Why did he stop? He says he doesn’t know, but the experience changed his identity. Can you imagine the emotions he must have felt?