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Chernobyl, Texas

Al Billings

I came searching for light and shadow, but a flat, monotonous cloud cover drains the life from the slow film I had so carefully loaded into my camera. An overcast sky has hijacked Southeast Austin, and abandoned houses slowly decompose. “Shoot for the shadows,” said the old photographer, “and the light will take care of itself,” but not here, not today.

An industrial power grid sprawls across a barren field near concrete drainage pipes, distorting the scale of the landscape before me. Nothing much moves. All that’s in motion is a blurred car zipping into the picture frame in the upper left hand bridge photo.

Rank weeds burst through the cracks of an abandoned parking lot once bustling with busy shoppers. Bright machinery turns to rust, and I imagine dusky Gypsies hammering the dents out of copper kettles. The ghosts of laughing children mock the decomposing ranch houses that now bear witness to the inexorable passage of time and its attendant demands. Time and its cruel passage rule this melancholy vista.

January 27, 2012 6:30 pm

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