Essay on The History of Architectural Decay

Essay on The History of Architectural Decay

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Architectural decay was not always considered an appropriate subject for photography because it was considered aesthetically unpleasant. But in the late 1800s, photojournalists began to see the need to photographs derelict buildings as a form of social documentation and since then architectural decay photography has evolved into a form of fine art.

The earliest photographer to be recognized for his photography of architectural decay was Jacob Riis, a photojournalist who documented the squalid living conditions in New York tenements in his book, How the Other Half Lives, published in 1890. Many of his photographs depicted run down boarding houses and rat infested cellars where people could obtain a spot to sleep for 5 cents. Since most of the interiors that Riis photographed were poorly lit, he is also known for pioneering the use of flash photography by igniting a mixture of magnesium and potassium chlorate powder. His photographs were intended to educate those not familiar with the derelict slums in which some people were forced to live, and were influential in creating a manda...

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