ROGER W. DORMANN

Fine Art Photography

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Bodie: A State of Arrested Decay

Bodie is an abandoned mining town in the high Sierra of California. Gold was discovered here in 1859, and by 1875, Bodie had become a sprawling gold mining town with the population growing to as high as 8,000. The town attracted bad men and wild times during the boom years. No fewer than 60 saloons lined the streets along with brothels and opium dens. Gunfights and stabbings were rampant and the Bodie graveyard filled quickly.

Old leaning building in Bodi, California ghost town
Old kitchen in Bodi, California ghost town
View of church from window in Bodi, California ghost town
The contrast between the church outside and the rotted sofa is what drew me in this photo.

The boom years were over quickly, but mining continued until 1942 as the population dwindled. Only about 5% of the town’s original buildings remain today and the California Department of Parks and Recreation maintains it in a state of “arrested decay.”

Old building exterior with stormy sky and truck in Bodi, California ghost town
The general store in what's left of the town center. If you enlarge and look closely, you can see an eerie old mannequin in the window.
Old wrecked car in Bodi, California ghost town
One of my favorite shots.

The photos here were all taken during the span of one day. The indoor scenes are shot only with natural light coming through dirty windows. The decision to present the photos in black and white is not intended to create a feeling of nostalgia. Rather, by emphasizing strong textures, local contrast, and low-key natural lighting, I have attempted to reveal the essence of Bodie, which to me is a macabre metaphor for broken dreams, human greed, and human frailties beset with contradictions. In doing so, and because human nature has not changed much since then, I hope to draw a likeness to a state of “arrested decay” in our own times with perhaps an occasional glimmer of hope.

Old machine in Bodi, California ghost town
The dead bug in the machine is what makes this photo.
Funeral parlor with coffin in Bodi, California ghost town
Probably Bodie's busiest enterprise during the boom years: the funeral parlor.

Go to full gallery collection of Bodie images.

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