Factory with goldenrod

Today demolition crews began tearing down my favorite abandoned factory: a crumbling edifice I’ve always secretly considered my own.

Condemned

During the four years I’ve lived in Keene, I’ve photographed the old factory at 92 Water Street countless times, from various angles and in diverse light and weather. You could say this factory is my own Motif Number 1: an artistic subject I’ve revisited time and again, never convinced I’ve truly captured it. Would you believe me if I claimed this crumbling old edifice has moods, and I’ve spent four years trying to understand them? Would you believe me if I claimed I myself have many moods, and in a way this old edifice, standing as a stubborn anachronism in the middle of a residential neighborhood, reminds me of my own inscrutable self?

Do not cross line

Filed away in my photo archives, I have a handful of pictures my then-husband took of me when we first moved to Keene. I was updating my website and needed photos of myself; I wanted these images to be taken outdoors in a landscape that felt like home. Posing among late summer goldenrods with a background of weathered brick, I felt authorial and astute. Looking back today on those now-dated photos, I see myself as being infinitely more innocent than a mere four years would suggest, my hair severely short and my body painfully thin. I look fragile and even brittle, as if the tension of living in a crumbling marriage was attenuating my soul to the point of breaking. Four years later, I’m softer around the edges: my hair is long and carefree, my body is relaxed and plump, and I’m happy. The person I see smiling in those pictures is not the person I am today, and the building that stands behind her will soon be no more.

Asbestos danger

When I saw the gaping hole today’s wrecking ball made in a factory I’ve spent four years studying, I realized how many memories are trapped behind its brick and mortar facade. Here is a building my then-husband couldn’t understand my fascination with; here is a building that knew me when I was someone else entirely. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the years since my separation, it’s that you sometimes have to wreck your life in order to save it, the familiar things that bring you comfort being the very things that prevent your growth. In the aftermath of divorce, the sight of an old, abandoned building that still found strength to stand was quietly re-assuring, and these days, I think I can continue standing without such reassurances. Although I still cherish the countless pictures I’ve taken of “my” factory over the years, the time has come to move on to other scenes.

Wrecked

Click here to see various views of this same factory, taken over the past four years. The photos aren’t in chronological order, so if you view the slide-show of these images, you’ll zip back and forth in time, seeing graffiti and other ephemerals as they come and go. Enjoy!