Since I was a very little girl, these apartments have stood mostly abandoned. I remember them as clearly as I remember the first time I was sent to the principal’s office in first grade (for flipping the bird to a fellow seven-year-old) or the time in fifth grade that I beat up a classmate with my lunchbox for making fun of my glasses. These apartments have always stood out starkly in my memory. When I was younger, I didn’t know why I was so enthralled by them. Now that I’m older, I can see that I’m drawn not just to the distinct architectural beauty of them, but to what they represent — hopes and possibilities and people striving for something better. When these apartments were built, they were a huge undertaking. They were the embodiment of a collective voice saying We’re pulling ourselves out of this mire — this Depression — and creating our own futures. I’ve always been fond of human representations of possibility, and Wilshire Village is just one of those examples.
My camera is another object of possibility of which I’m very fond. I still use an old 35mm Canon that my father gave to me ages ago. Digital cameras are okay, but there’s something hollow about the images that they produce. Don’t like a picture you took on your digital camera? Erase it — it’s gone forever. Trying to get that perfect shot? Just take a few dozen with your digital camera and eventually one of them will turn out right — you can choose which one you like best later. It’s soulless.
With a traditional camera, every picture you take means something — whether you know it or not. It means something because once it’s taken, it’s there for good. It’s imprinted on that tiny piece of negative or glossy photo that you have developed. It’s something concrete and tangible that you can hold onto. With a traditional camera, you have to make a real effort in your photography. Once that shutter is released, you’re committed to that one photo that you just took — you’re twinned forever to that moment. It’s more than a little sacred.
I went to Wilshire Village this afternoon to take some photographs of the property before its inevitable destruction. While I don’t feel like dwelling on this particular topic right now, as it pains me to no end that our city has adopted their “Never Look Back” stance with such short-sighted gusto and literalism, you’re welcome to read more at any number of Houston architectural or preservationist websites. I wouldn’t feel right taking along a digital camera to a place like this, its very nature incongruous to the weight that I feel every time I visit the complex. It’s a very haunting place by nature, but today was different. Storms have been rolling through the city every day for the past — two? three? months, I don’t know anymore. They’re the typical Houston summer storms, what we used to call “the devil beating his wife” when I was younger (I don’t hear that particular spousal-abuse weather euphemism much anymore) — heavy, pounding rain while all around you are blue skies. The rain moves from place to place like a sentient, schizophrenic being. It’s something everyone should experience.
I caught a break in the random rainstorms for about an hour. There was no wind the entire time and everything was perfectly still. It was mid-afternoon, so there were no katydids or crickets yet and therefore almost complete silence. It was such a perfect, crystalline moment in time — just one hour — punctuated only by the occasional cheuckh of the camera shutter, as sturdy and beautiful as a heartbeat.
Pictures (click on the links below):
Peaks of windows fall in line across the courtyard.
Windchimes wait for a breeze.
Graceful curves and a view to the sky.
A woman and her owl guard their post.
Branches hang low and heavy across a path.
Here’s hoping they remembered to take the bird with them.
Counting the days until Christmas.
Where does one obtain a clown graffiti stencil, anyway?