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Brecht Butcher Supply Company Buildings

February 13, 2007
Very often, the buildings on this site feel to me as though they are "mine" -- as if I was the first to discover them, the first to record their beauty and share it with the world, as if I had some special right to demand that they be accorded respect. They resonate with me, and my subconscious demands that I return to them again and again.

Other times, the buildings seem like someone else's, and I'm just borrowing them. Such is the Brecht Butcher Supply complex: Ecology of Absence has worked so hard to call attention to it that I almost feel guilty to portray the same building, as if I could somehow bring something new to a subject so well studied. I had driven past this structure a hundred times, even walked around the adjacent area a little bit, yet never photographed it. It never compelled me, never cried out to me that it had to be documented. It wasn't mine.

And yet. Moved by my friends' concern, I stopped by one fine morning in November. In about fifteen minutes, I shot the images you see here. Looking through them, I'm a bit awestruck by my own work: they show an incredibly beautiful subject, a minor symphony of brickwork and terra cotta and cast iron, mingled with short-lived strandboard and peeling paint. Sure, the blue skies and early morning sun were on my side, and perhaps my photographic eye was particularly 'on' that day, but mostly they're good shots because they are of a fantastic subject.

And as I sit writing this, I begin to feel that same resonance, that same desire to return to the construct that yielded up such beautiful images. I long to repeat that experience, to see what details I missed -- for you always miss something, and a second visit invariably turns up new angles, new insights, new discoveries, a greater perception of both the parts and the whole. I long to go back to this building.

I never will, because the Brecht buildings have been destroyed. Picked over by salvagers, then leveled by the wrecking ball, everything in these photos is now rubble. The symphony has ended, another work of art burned in the fires of St. Louis's cursed decay.

Additional information at Ecology of Absence.

Gallery: November 24, 2006

In March 2007, I found that the demolition was not as fast as I thought. Here are some shots of the crime in progress.

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