The Modern Ruins of Australia
Barren red deserts and isolated landscapes make Australia the perfect domain to explore the abandoned realm. Starkly contrasting its lively cities, these derelict places are filled with the visual props of a more recent time in the nation’s past. It is important to note that any discussion of Australian land, be it abandoned or not, must recognise its rich and valued Indigenous culture – a culture that stretches back tens of thousands of years. And while these places are loaded with recent, urban historical insight, ancient feet walked across these spaces long before the colonial cement was poured.
The fading glory of nineteenth century American mansions or the dramatic lost decadence of vine-covered European manors won’t be found on this landscape. Australia instead presents us with a number of recent ruins that narrate the humble stories of everyday working-class lives in a country that is ever-changing.
Unlike Detroit, Prypiat, or Fukishima, the abandonments in this publication are not attributable to a specific economical incident or man-made catastrophe. Each location is reliant on its own separate narrative, yet when pieced together, these images form a cultural patchwork that speaks volumes regarding the Australian journey.
Inside a wasp-infested farmhouse, a lounge room filled with family memories sits idle as the years pass by. On the outskirts of a city suburb, a dilapidated brick factory slowly crumbles to the ground. In a small country town, an eerie, overgrown convent returns to the earth, and a pigeon-infested textiles factory sits frozen in time. For the period that these spaces are abandoned, we are offered an opportunity to delve into the dark crevices to piece together their histories.
These images do not serve to expose the fragilities of a failing economy nor do they seek to critique the handling of Australia’s finances. And political or economic instability is not the sole factor to be blamed for the diminishments presented in this publication. Factories, schools, mines, houses, hospitals, and other establishments all over Australia have been left to decay for a number of different reasons with the exploration of each space revealing some part of what is its own unique story. With an aim to prompt conversations on a growing country with a complicated history, this selection of photographs connects as well as contrasts the past and the present and creates discussions on the evolving Australian story.
About Shane Thoms
The visual documentation of the dilapidated urban space reveals an abundance of philosophy pertaining to the human quandary. Littered with the props of humanity, time has melted these forgotten realms. Now static dimensions, these cinematic, stage-like platforms become places where conversations regarding our journey from construction to deconstruction and permanence to disposability begin.
In viewing these modern ruins we contrast time with the longevity of humanity. From this examination, we face our mortality and realise our lives in the scope of existence are brief in comparison to the structures we build. We face truth’s regarding human expiry and discontinuity and while these reflections are back dropped by the spectacular beauty of nature reclaiming her space, we reach the conclusion that time continues, yet we do not.
Filled with cross-cultural, analytical value, Shane Thoms’s photographic body of work documents as well as archives the remaining traces of emotion that linger inside these abandoned spaces.
Shane Thoms studied at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and holds a Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication majoring in photography, screen and media.
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