Coronado has lost an old friend. The ferryboat San Diego has been abandoned along the shores of the Sacramento River, in a little known slough leading to Decker Island. The San Diego was most recently used as a liveaboard vessel in the rivers of Northern California with graffiti painted along her sides. Efforts to bring her back to San Diego to be used as a dinner theatre or museum failed repeatedly.
(from “History Matters”, the newsletter of The Coronado Historical Society, Spring 2008)
And she is still there, not far from the northern approach to the Antioch Bridge. She is a shock when you first spot her, looking like the perfect location for a cheap horror film. The effects of time have given her a haunted look, but she is eminently useful as just an exquisite ruin. I wanted desperately to get closer, perhaps try to board her, but she is moored next to private property.
This site made me think of an old photographic series of mine depicting architectural ruins, mostly from the mid 20th Century. Cliche or not, ruins are irresistible to me. Their persistent depiction through Art History, the framing of them as parks and attractions, their status as public assets, all show that the ruin ‘fetish’ has always been common. →
To experience a ruin is to experience a sublime wherein what dwarfs us is not space, distance, darkness or weather, but rather, time and all its attendant cosmic mysteries. We go to these places to remember and pay respect to the past, yes, but also for the exhilarating feeling of omniscience that comes from being reminded of our proper context, globally and cosmically. We confront death, but this omniscience seems to include acceptance.
Hero ruins like the San Diego (or the abandoned Salton Sea resorts shown above) are great, but the same exhilarating feeling can for me be derived from a modest overgrown foundation or an anonymous slab in the desert. →
Are they a cliche? Perhaps, but for me, it’s their depiction that can get cliche. With all that omniscience, confronting of death, exhilaration, etc., photography’s mediation can’t help but have a trivializing effect compared with a primary experience. A ruin is not just a view, but something best walked through, listened to, and examined foot by foot. ♦