The Demolition of the Industrial Revolution
Like trapped ghosts, the documentary images in Scott Lapham's Series of industrial buildings vanishing in the Providence landscape straddle the dimensions of past and present, offering one final rattle of the blinds before disappearing into the darkness.
Scenes of demolition and destruction are juxtaposed with remnants suggesting ancient ruins and archetypal myth. They are building portraits, transcending their documentary nature through Lapham's clear-eyed vision and artful execution. The photographer captures a spirit of the human energy still pulsing weakly through the windows and walls that exude so much personality, especially when one considers the sterile strip malls, concrete highways, and big box retail stores that will replace them.
Some of the scenes are poetic. Freshly Fallen Snow, Narragansett Brewery #1 is a visual haiku, revealing a white rectangle of pure snow that fell through an open roof amid the soot and rubble of an abandoned brewery. Another brewery image of icicles is elegantly composed, metaphorically convening eternal winter in the last glint of light reflecting off the jagged ice.
There are gothic silhouettes ( Riverside Mill) and scenes of Providence noir
( Smokestack #2, Narragansett Brewery), Asbestos Shingles, Thurston Mahufacturing documents a mountain of hazardous tiles, piled on the floor like a black volcano. In Smokestack #1, Silver Spring Bleaching and Dyeing, the predominant white space of the photo serves as a kind of limbo, with the thin line formed by the smoke stack diminished like a burnt cigarette in an empty room.
In the identifying information, Lapham indicates what year the buildings were demolished, and as the viewer moves from scene to scene, there is a palpable sense of loss, for what once made Providence great. The effect is something like looking at the family photo album after the death of a dear relative.
Doug Norris , Art New England