Photographs and images are a two dimensional representation, but a great photograph can pull you in with the illusion of the third dimension. The mind can perceive depth through shadows, colours, lines, perspective, and the story that is being told. One can almost get the feel that they are there when they absorb the scene and ponder the details. There is a sense, however, that no photograph can capture. While the power of the mind can conjure wild sensations like smell and temperature, there is a feel that can only be experienced in person. The first time I was in the presence of a nuclear plant, I was in awe of the magnitude of the cooling towers. It felt like the closer I got the bigger they became, like a cinema effect. Then as I reached the base of the concrete mega structure, the air changed. It was like a shift in gravity, sound, and movement. It was incredible and pretty indescribable. I'll put to rest the immediate thought you may be having about an explanation...radiation. This particular plant had never reached the stage of completion to be a functioning generator of electricity and did not contain or process the uranium that comes to mind when we think of nuclear power. The feeling was conjured up by pure unadulterated awe.
As I arrived for my most recent visit, the sky cleared and I was given the approval to climb the great external stairway to the rim of one of the towers. At the top of the concrete enclosed stairwell, there is access to the inside of the tower where they do sound research and recordings. I immediately learned why. As I neared the centre, I approached a new field of sensory stimulation. Even the smallest of noises would kick back a spiralling echo from multiple places inside the tapered waisted megalith.
After a few snaps, claps, and shutter flicks, I made my way back out to the staircase and was given the lowdown on my impending ascent. Apparently most people find it a bit overwhelming and halfway is a reasonable goal. I understood this pretty quick as every step was on expanded metal stairs alongside a disorienting and ever-changing perspective of a concrete slope and out in the elements. There was nowhere I could look that gave any sense of spatial grounding.
I lost all sense of time to the soundtrack of my inner voice sternly chanting “This is what you are here for. There is no danger. People do this all the time. Almost there. You can do this, Cat. I am one with the Force; the Force is with me”. I was in an altered state of concentration and it actually came as a surprise to me when I reached the rim. I am not convinced there is a word for the feeling that hit me at this moment and I am unsure how to describe it other than terrifyingly hyper alive. An inner voice that was quietly on loop the whole time kept saying “there is nothing that says you have to do this. At any point turning around is perfectly acceptable“. Knowing all of this is true was a real test of my determination. It may sound ridiculous, but I learned way more about myself from this experience than years of introspection.
If the stairs let me on this narrow circular catwalk at six o’clock, the sun was blinding me from the twelve mark, which gave me a little logic to fight the fear because if I were to take any photographs, I need my light source behind me. I set out on the rim of the beast and it started to pour rain.
Back on terra firma, with massive demonic pupils (I can only presume), and limbs shaking like a newborn giraffe, I set off into the reactor building to explore the massive underground, dismantled, and stripped carcass of what was intended to be a power generation plant. It now serves as training facilities for disaster rescue and reenactment, movie sets, and apparently a holy grail for someone who obsesses about abandoned beauty, big industry and infrastructure, decay, history, and photography of said things.
When nature starts to regain her territory and take back slowly in a delicate fusion of industry and decay, I find my favourite balance in this world. Nothing speaks to me deeper than seeing the unnatural human creations melding with the supernatural force of life in what I often describe as the ultimate art collaboration.
There is a feeling that some people experience called Stendahl or Florence Syndrome. It has also been called an 'art attack' when an observer is so moved by something they find overwhelmingly beautiful. It can make you dizzy to the point of losing consciousness or hallucinating and it's simply a release overload of the 'feel good' chemicals that the brain produces. Hearing a beautifully mastered song through a quality sound system can induce some passionate music lovers into tears. Seeing an epic historic work of art like a Michelangelo has been known to send people into this ecstatic state. You can see the beauty of things like the Sistine Chapel, breathtaking architecture, or museum artifacts in a photograph, but it cannot compare to the experience of being in their actual presence. People often say that once you travel, you will never be the same again. I am convinced that it is partially because of the difference in perspective between images and real life. Adding a literal dimension to what we knew previously can make us feel powerful or powerless, make the world feel immensely huge or surprisingly small, and give us a new way of looking at the existence we previously knew. A two dimensional image can only reveal so much, but a great photograph has the power to evoke a flood of sensations. To be able to capture images that might strike emotion is a goal that keeps me shooting and searching. My images generally mean more to me than to other observers because I have the whole experience in my mind that recreates itself when I look at a photograph I have taken. It is a constant strive to do my best to capture as many senses into the limited expression of my parameters. To take a thousand meaningful words and make my photos worth every one.