ROGER W. DORMANN

Fine Art Photography

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.

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."

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.

Click on the images to view full-screen versions with slideshow.

To leave comments for this collection, visit the Bodie blog post.