Deep South :: The English Department Ezine, Otago University


photographs and text by Darcy Gladwin

I was travelling through the deep South on a music tour. The van I was driving needed to get to Dunedin for the next show. Coming through Milton, a large building and chimney on the left caught my eye . Mental note; come back to Milton. Architecture. Time. Human endeavour. As it happened, I was called to do a gig two weeks later in Wanaka. The day after that, lo, I was deja-vueing my way into Milton, again.

This time I stopped.

Past the happy face, to a chap standing on the drive, maybe an electrical serviceman. I say hello and ask if it's ok to have a look around. He's not one for words, but seems ok with that. I amble toward the looming structure, seemingly transported backward in time. This feels like Germany, first world war (not that I was there or anything).

Angles jump out of the stillness, a man-size still-life. Disconnected pipes, doors and windows. A sign cautions "no entry". I enter. I'm a photographer, curious to find out what, who and how.

The stream broiling alongside lifts the mood some. Now it feels like I've stepped into a Biblical scene. Danger.

The darkness of the building wraps me. I set the camera ISO3200 in attempt to capture the inky interior. Eyes adjust. Flapping sounds - there's maybe 20 pigeons in that chimney, flapping from one tier of girders, upward to the next. Too fast to capture, contrasted wrecked sight.

Past that horrible digestive machine covered in bird shit, along narrow corridor, listening for voices. Stealing pictures, expecting a body, face any moment.

The camera shutter highlights the soundbed of a low rumble, constantly rising is the smokeyness, in my lungs.

Majesty and horror - the scene at hand. Fire, iron, slippery railing. Apparatus of a bygone age. Where are the men? What is this inferno? Angles, obtuse and prolific. Hell, this is a cinematographer's wet dream. That's right, Hell. Paranoid senses overcome, not least imagination. The lungs, filling fast with the carcinogenic belch of that prehistoric monster.

Reel backward, out the back (front) door? Oxygen, outside ! Greeted by a yellow-barreled toxic waste dump. O joy ! The garden of middle England and her merry men. Composure. ISO100 and photographic evidence of half-done tasks. Left for another day, time means little.

Back on the driveway, the chap stands, vacant. I approach him, he hardly moves. I don't bother with pleasantries, I'm back on the road with the smiling face, in my warm car of 1980's piston technology, carcinogenic fumes tucked safely under the bonnet.

(c) Darcy Gladwin. All rights reserved.

The bottom half of an image of a flax frond.