This essay is a part of the exhibition catalogue for the 2021 show PLEASERE TURNCART SHERE featuring the photographic works of Nicholas Seitz.
We human beings love a story that ends in something being accomplished, and then being made new: the community center gets its ribbon cut on a sunny day, and the children play with joy. The boy and the girl kiss and the music swells, they get married. The bad guy is thrown into the volcano, and the villagers cheer, finally free of the bad guy’s badness.
To get to the beginning, we had to start at the end: I said that the corral was no more, and it is actually gone. But now we are at the end. What happened to the corral? Where is the happy ending?
The corral is gone. I wouldn’t really say it was defeated. It didn’t get to kiss someone or get married. It will not be in the sculpture garden of the new community center. I said it in the beginning, I have no special insight on where the corral ended up. I can only imagine it’s at the dump.
I passed by the corral on a whim about five months after finishing my photography there, and it was being turned into a new parking lot. I hastily grabbed a few photos with my iPhone, but as the weeks went by and this book was getting ready for print, it seemed fitting to go back to make a few more earnest photographs to serve as an epilogue.
When I first went, it looked like they were going to build a new building based on how the curbs were laid out. When I returned there in mid-May 2021, they were pouring the foundation for a new bank, with what looked like an additional lot for a second building.
No movement on the large retail space.
At first, I thought I should try to estimate the former position of the corral to create some photos which would call attention to its absence due to the similarity of the angles I was all too familiar photographing. But with many of the trees gone or cut back, and the parking lot gone and replaced with new construction equipment, I was having a hard time pointing at one spot and saying “yes, this is truly where it stood.”
But then something occurred to me— with the corral gone, I was free to photograph everything else in the space.
I love photographing construction sites. To me, it’s the opposite of an abandoned building, but they are equivalent in terms of being uncommon, uninhabitable spaces which point towards the purpose of habitation. In other words, you cannot lead a rich and full life, raise a family, live comfortably, conduct business, cook a meal, etc., in an abandoned building or on a construction site. But the fact that this meaning is conveyed so intuitively illustrates in relief the purposes of habitation.
However, whereas abandoned buildings connote degradation, dilapidation, ruin, and failure, construction sites point towards cultivation and stewardship of a space. It is a new ordering and unfolding for the potential of the space.
It may have been easy to see the demolition of the existing parking lot and the development of a new building as something like a personal attack. I had invested so much time in developing photographs predicated on that space that the space’s destruction might have even caused something like emotional distress to me. But the space was not part of me, and the corral was not mine.
On one hand, I do mean literally that the space was not mine. It was owned by a property development company, or by the bank that was building a new branch on the site. They have every right to develop the space as they see fit, and no amount of art I did on the site can change that fact- I had no right to be upset in any way. I was lucky to be able to photograph in that area for as long as I did without being bothered.
But on the other hand, I do also literally mean that space is not mine. I am able to observe the world that I did not make and give thanks for being able to do so. Trees, the sky, the air, the parking lot, I do not own any of it. I am able to see it, to use it, to try to draw out some of the potential within it, but I didn’t make it, don’t own it. I can only receive it gladly and work with it as appropriately as I know how to.
The fact that the corral was gone freed me to wander around the space and photograph, to see and create images of the space in yet another new way. The freedom was daunting, but enjoyable. This time I limited myself to only 5 images and let myself decide when I got home. The decision wasn’t easy.