the pathos, and the patina

I was lost when I found this house. Headed east in North Carolina, toward Pungo Lake to observe the migrating birds, I missed a turn. I came to a crossroads, looked left, and there she was at the far end of a fallow field. Overgrown evergreens stood tall by the porch and it felt as if the house was trying to hide.  I approached slowly, in part because I was sensitive to trespassing, and because I just wanted to visually absorb what lay before me.


The second shot was a bit closer, through raindrops clinging to a bush.


After hanging around the property for about twenty minutes I began to get more confident that no one really minded me being there, so I began to get closer.


It’s the pathos of things that draws me. I’m going to quote from a book called “Pouring Concrete” that my brother Ben “loaned” me a decade or so ago. “Zen Buddhists have a phrase – ‘the pathos of things’ – that refers to seeing the world in depth. It is the feeling we have when we look at something transient, perhaps a flower, and see in it something of the infinite. Anyone who spends time directly perceiving the world eventually experiences some sense of this pathos.”

Like many photographers, I’m drawn to ruin. It’s almost embarrassing how many photographs I’ve taken of abandoned houses. I even tried to make myself stop by creating projects that require me to photograph humans more.

But I can’t look away. The pathos, and patina. The intersection of transience and eternity. I like to imagine the sounds that might have been in the houses at one time. The lives lived out there. It’s mysterious and not mysterious. We come, and we go.

One response to “the pathos, and the patina

  1. lovely, julie.

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