I wanted to share with you the backstory about one particular image that I took earlier this year entitled, Hole In The Floor. The image was captured at an old abandoned farmhouse in Creti, Italy. It is hard to believe that the small town of Creti actually showed up on my map, it turned out to be just a cluster of two or three buildings along the roadside. I discovered this particular building during my most recent visit to Tuscany this past June. It is one of the larger farm buildings I have seen on my travels thus far. To me, at first glance it appeared to be a bit disproportional, with its long length in comparison to its relatively shallow depth. It followed the usual rural Italian theme; farm animals on the first level, and living quarters for the farm workers on the second. The long side of the building was parallel to the unimproved gravel road that for whatever reason didn’t have a very defined edge. Small random trees, and weeds that have now turned into shrubs and bushes covered the expansive two-story façade. In some strange way the overgrown vegetation served as a barrier from the limited farm road traffic. All of the leaves were covered in pure white dust from the dry road conditions.
As I pulled my car alongside the building, I noticed a farmer plowing his field across the road. Spray-painted on all sides of this structure, were words that were now faded from the sun. They were the Italian words for precarious and danger. By now, I have gotten used to seeing those words, and recognize them easily almost as if they were written in English. These places truly are dangerous, no false advertising there. With roof structures collapsing under their own weight, floor systems sometimes non-existent, and bulging walls abundant, even with all of these dangerous conditions, I remain drawn to these places like a magnet. I am always careful about where I step and always know where my escape route is if something should accidently happen.
The challenge I faced on this particular hot June afternoon was the farmer. Although he was across the road in the middle of a field plowing, he was keeping an eye on me, I could just feel it. The Italians are strangely protective of their property, understandably so, yet they are also very free and welcoming. It was hard to tell which side he was on. In all of the hundreds of these buildings I have been in, I have only been yelled at once. I guess my record is pretty good in that regard. My concept is to always respect what is there, and leave it like you found it, without touching anything. The farmer was on a tractor outfitted with treads like you would find on a military tank or bulldozer. They continuously made that distinctive clack click clack click sound. He was plowing long rows up and down the hill, and the whole time while he was plowing he was watching me. I am sure that he was asking himself why is that guy taking photos of my building? Each pass would take about five minutes or so. Without even looking at him, I knew he had turned around and was headed back up the hill. The sounds of his tractor were different going up compared to coming down. I was determined to get inside and try to get a photograph or two. My only hope of doing this was when he had turned his back to me and was plowing up the hill away from me. I waited outside, and took some useless images, simply stalling for time. As soon as he made his turn, I quickly took advantage of the situation and carefully scaled main stair, which led to the second floor entrance door. The stone stair, cantilevered from the exterior wall, had eroded to the point where only a few feet of it remained projecting from the wall. I hugged the face of the building, pushed away the vegetation on my ascent and rapidly made it to the top of the stairs as fast as I could. The landing felt amazingly solid and safe compared to everything else around me. When I turned to my left to enter the building, I composed this image with the huge hole in the floor dominating the foreground in front of me. I could physically go no further, the hole in the floor prevented me from entering the building. I stood there for what seemed like hours in order to absorb the scene in front of me, I was overwhelmed. The entire time I kept listening for the reversal of the tractor sound, signaling me that I needed to make my exit.
The bright afternoon sunlight poured in from the holes in the roof above. It was almost like someone stood outside with a huge flashlight and illuminated the space below. There is so much going on in this image, that it even now, several months later I continue to see different things for the very first time. One can clearly witness the effects of weather and decay that this building has suffered. The destructive forces of nature have created an irreversible condition, and building will continue to die a slow and painful death. I quickly grabbed two or three images, being careful to maximize the depth of field of the shot and then heard the track noise change. I made it back down the crumbling stairs to the safety of my car. I don’t think the farmer ever had a clue as to what had happened. I have the fond memories of trying to outsmart him and ultimately reach my photographic objective.