Wasn’t even in Texas when Ike hit the upper Texas coast, but the news of Ike left me with a sinking feeling nonetheless. Why? What DOES Ike have to do with photography?
Working on the Texas Church Project has been as much an education on life along the Texas coast 100 plus years ago. Many of the churches we have photographed were the 2nd or 3rd building at a location. The reason was not because of growth, but due to storms along the Gulf coast or fire (no electricity in those days). So while not really that old, the fact that these old buildings survived is quite special. Photographs from those days indicate how the area looked, as well as the mode of transportation, dress, etc.
The recent news footage from Galveston and the Upper Texas coast indicate that many of these old buildings could have been damaged beyond repair. If that is indeed the case, some may be lost with only the photographs of them remaining. It is the news of the destruction that fires up the need to go out and photograph the remaining buildings – all over the state, before they to end up a pile of rubble. Our friends in Europe will tell you that a building 100 or 200 years old is not that big a deal, and from their point of view it’s not. Imagine sitting in a building that is 400, 500 even 600 years old, these are places I would like to visit and listen to the tales the walls have to tell.
Which brings me back to the stories we tell with photographs and what Ike has to do with photography. The destruction itself is one of the stories, the buildings that survived is another. In 50 years or even less those stories will be buried in a newspaper office, stuck away in some database, or be a brief mention in some history book. But the photographs will show what happened, and perhaps serve as a reminder to not linger when warnings are issued – they will show the absolute power of Nature and how we should never take her for granted. And without photographs, how could we compare the destruction of Ike with the storm of 1900?
If you live in an area with great historic buildings, take some time this weekend or very soon, and record what the buildings look like today, share the beauty that has endured for the past 50, 75, 100 or 150 years so that if the worst happens you will have reminders of what it looked like when….