Rusted, Busted, and Junked: Images from the Scrap Heap
17 Jun 2008
I've been haunting junkyards. And junkyard operators have been haunting me. A couple have ordered me from their premises. Others have denied me entry when I've been circumspect enough to request permission in advance to photograph on site. Some cite insurance considerations. And in one case, a previous betrayal: "I've been bit on the ass once. No more." This from an owner who granted a photographer access only to have the images used against him, presumably to show that the operation was a nuisance and an eyesore. Which indeed it was. Too bad; his yard was a potential gold mine of imagery--dozens of rusting vehicles stacked two and three high, grease-stained machinery flaking paint and sinking on flattened rubber.
Junkyards, for all their negative connotations, offer the photographer unexpected images--rust and peeling paint and dripping oil that create patterns as striking as the abstract art hung in Chelsea's most avant garde galleries. The trick is to come in close to isolate the beauty, and crop away what's ugly and extraneous.
As it happens, the junkyards I photographed dealt largely with heavy machinery--bull dozers, earth movers, front loaders, back hoes, buses. Even something called a "Ditch Witch." And I think these pieces of industrial equipment, often with exposed hydraulic hoses and tubing, the rusting blades and plows, the scoops and attachments, brightly painted (once) for high visibility, offered more inspiration than the typical junked car.
And to get the shots I wanted, I was not adverse to returning to a yard from which I had previously been banished, but this time under cover of a Sunday afternoon when I hoped no one would be home. Happily, there was no junkyard dog to chase me off.