1. Paul Parkhill & Julia Solis, the co-publishers of the series. 2. Andrew Emond, the photographer for Elevator Alley.
Furnace Press released the first three books of the Decomposition Series on Tuesday. The publication was marked with a book launch party at East Williamsburg’s 3rd Ward. If you don’t yet know about 3rd Ward, let me tell you: it’s a pretty cool set up. Enclosed in a large, formerly industrial warehouse, the art and design center is membership-based. These memberships begin at $50 a month, and include free coffee (!), a bike (!!), and discounts on classes, studio space, etc. (more comprehensive memberships include the fees for the classes and studio space). The center also hosts various events, like craft fairs and parties, hence Tuesday’s party.
1. Jessica Rowe, photographer, & Jean Kahler, author. Both ladies worked on The End of New York. 2. Dorothy Trojanowski, the designer for the series, artist Abby Ruby, Hackett, & artist Lindsay McCosh.
The series itself “focuses on particular abandoned site of special historic and artistic interest,” and the three released books deal “with evocative sites in New York State.” After we socialized for about half an hour with free refreshments (and they were generous, too — the beer, wine, and sparkling water was plentiful), co-publisher Julia Solis addressed the crowd. Gayle Snible, the project manager for the first book, The End of New York, introduced Jean Kahler and Jessica Rowe, the book’s creators.
Kahler, the writer, read a section about Sandy Ground — the “literal end of New York,” located on the south side of Staten Island. Apparently the neighborhood was established by freed slaves but is now home to a rundown graveyard and abandoned construction sites. Kahler’s writing was smooth and lyrical, and conveyed the haunting decay that has blanketed the neighborhood. A slideshow of Rowe’s photographs was projected while Kahler read, and Rowe explained her inspiration and process after the reading. She photographed something much different before this project: the interiors of homes that had been lived in for twenty years or more. She said that landscapes usually didn’t speak to her, but Sandy Ground did because she found it so “weird looking.” And it really is. The photographs showed the empty basements of an incomplete duplex complex, which have since been filled in with water and trash. Plants and trees have grown over the dilapidating structures, creating an odd juxtaposition of the natural and man-made worlds.
Michael Cook and Andrew Emond were up next with Elevator Alley. They examined a section of six grain elevators in Buffalo’s First Ward. Cook and Emond refuse to look at these buildings as abandoned — one building was still operational when they began the shoot, and a second has been put back into operation since — so these buildings maintain both a historical and commercial value. Cook explained the strangeness of the elevators’ size. They appear massive from far away, towering over Buffalo’s flat landscape like skyscrapers. Emond went through a slideshow of his photographs, explaining that these buildings were particularly unique because the interiors were mostly intact — perfect motionless time capsules since they were abandoned twenty years ago (most old grain elevators are broken into by locals, graffittied, and looted). His photos, like Rowe’s, were stunning — beautiful and creepy at the same time — making me wish that Jonathan Haeber, the creator of the third book, Grossinger’s: City of Refuge and Illusion, was there so we could see more striking pictures.
–Julia Jackson is working on her MFA in fiction at Brooklyn College, and is a regular contributor for Electric Dish.