Any visitor to Arthur Drooker’s online portfolio can see that this American photographer only has eyes for ruins. For his latest work, Lost Worlds: Ruins of America, Drooker roamed the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America in search monasteries, temples, fortresses and other remnants of past civilizations. In the way that Drooker conjures their memory, the investigation takes on an almost mystical quality: “Photographing ruins merges my passions for history and photography. I’m drawn to these sites to commune with those who came before us, preserve what they left behind, and restore what they’ve built to our collective memory. In this act of creation, I confront my own mortality and become most alive.”
All of the photographs of monuments were taken in infra-red monochrome. According to Drooker, this digital technique draws out the ruins’ “inherent mystery” otherwise invisible to the naked eye. With their lighting effects, shadowy atmosphere and stark contrasts, his images attest not only to the inevitable erosion of the structure, but also to the vitality of the vegetation present in their composition. They show the surreal beauty of fading structures with crumbling façades, enhanced by the overcast skies. The viewer is able to luxuriate in these monumental visions thanks to a number of close-ups of sculptures that forged the history of and culture of the Maya and Inca civilizations, and even Haiti’s colonial era.
Despite thse technical innovations, Lost Worlds was completed over the course of three years, following a tradition established by the great photographers Timothy O’Sullivan and Emanuel Von Friedrichstahl, pioneers of architectural photography and the first to publish a book on ancient ruins. Arthur Drooker, a self-proclaimed heir to that tradition, imagined his own project as a response to a questioned posed in 1855 by Abel Fletcher, editor of Photographic and Fine Art Journal: “Are not these monuments of former ages calling upon us, as artists, to come and secure their shadows by the pencil ray of Heaven, ere their crumbling forms shall pass away forever?” The shadows that Drucker has secured (as on the book’s cover) will serve to guarantee the immortality of these ruins.
Lost Worlds: Ruins of the Americas
Photographs by Arthur Drooker
Antique Collectors’ Club
10.5 x 11.5in