Published on December 9th, 2015 | by TLV News0
Abandoned Places Photo Essay: Part Two
I recently saw the famous documentarian Ken Burns give a lecture on campus, wherein he compared the University of Mississippi to a perpetual motion machine – the (impossible) notion of a self-contained system which generates enough kinetic energy, by virtue of simply operating, to power its own machinery – a battery that is always on. Of course, those of us who live here know this to be essentially untrue, but one could see how the idea might develop. Town and university feed one another in a delicate, symbiotic balance, the gears of the machine groaning to a slow crawl with the advent of each summer before crashing back into high gear each fall. Oxford is, for better and for worse, a town in the constant throes of reinvention. Local heroes come and go, some ascending to join the starry pantheons of further fame and glory, others sneaking out of town with a hastily packed wagon full of stolen goods in the dead of night. Some landmarks erode and slip into time; others are placed on a pedestal until scholarly observation obfuscates their original context. Although much of Oxford burned in 1864, since this date the town has been continually expanding outwards and building on top of itself. And yet, a few things remain constant: Young ladies will never find themselves wanting for places to buy a handbag on the Square. A predominant number of vegetable dishes served around town will continue to contain some amount of pork, because that’s just called incentivizing good behavior. The freshman calling you at 3 am needing bail money for a DUI a few weeks from now will be the same person you call needing a business reference fifteen years hence.
It is remarkable when one drives out of town, going in any direction, how quickly this sense of attendant newness slips away on all sides of you. The latest additions in the roster of condominiums, upscale fast-food chain franchises, bars, and boutiques all melt away in the rear-view mirror, and invariably you find yourself on a lonelier, dustier sort of Mississippi road. What is perhaps even more remarkable is how often fresh and dilapidated spaces stand side by side in Lafayette County. If one pays attention to the frequently overlooked, one sees how our surroundings bears the toll of time – the derelict loading dock behind a bright new facade, the torn patch of roof and shattered windows of a ramshackle building which once housed a business that has either closed forever or opened up shop in a brand-spanking-new location across town. These photos represent an effort to freeze the process of deterioration and entropy for a moment, and to observe the overlooked to muse on what has been and what might be.