By Tom Wachunas
“For that is the power of the camera: seize the familiar and give it new meanings, a special significance by the mark of a personality.”
“…Walking through some of these spaces, you could almost feel some of the spirit that this town grew up with so many years ago…”
-Michael Barath, speaking to Dan Kane, The Repository, Aug. 6, 2015
EXHIBIT: Interiors, photographs by Michael Barath - on view THROUGH AUGUST, at Julz by Alan Rodriguez, 220 Market Avenue N. in downtown Canton / Tues.- Fri. 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. / Sat. 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The 20 photographs by Michael Barath in this exhibit, presented by TRANSLATIONS at Julz by Alan Rodriguez, constitute a ruminant journey through abandoned buildings from bygone days in Canton. The images depict various interiors of the now dormant Hercules Engine plant (its original building dating to the late 1800s), as well as interiors of other unspecified Victorian residential structures. Barath’s deftly composed images of atrophied architectures are certainly a nostalgic unveiling of sites long hidden from most of us, and a sobering witness to the ravages of time and neglect.
Yet curiously enough, the character emanating from these images isn’t strictly one of doleful ruination. There is an aura of enchanting hauntedness that makes these “dead” spaces breathe with a mystical light. The factory interiors, some of them cavernous, such as Factory Afternoon, are imbued with a hushed luminosity that softly illuminates their structural rhythms and shadowed recesses. The sensation of dysphoric emptiness is delicately balanced with a misty, even reverential light that borders on the Gothic. And for that matter, Barath’s approach can additionally seem almost painterly in the way it captures, not unlike Romantic-era artists, a dramatic atmosphere.
A similar ethereality is at work in many of the residential spaces depicted - Victorian Bathtub and Victorian Blue Bath, for example – framed to focus on their strangely intricate geometries and textures. These pictures are both pragmatic and poetic records of evanescence. People lived here once.
Amid the tactile grotesqueries of fallen plaster, rubble-strewn floors, or layers of peeling wallpaper, Barath’s compelling images of domestic relics arrested in time nonetheless leave us with an uncanny sense of lingering elegance, and of dignity in the deterioration.
PHOTOS, from top (courtesy Michael Barath, https://mbarath.smugmug.com/Site-Pages/About ): Factory 20, Factory Windows, Factory Afternoon, Victorian Blue Bath