Partial Architectures
Project info

The German landscapes in the series Partial Architectures are uneasily occupied by abstract formations. Their appearance suggests that they may be architectural vestiges, monuments, or perhaps illusive, unknowable aberrations. Their incongruity with the surrounding landscape speaks to the difficulty in comprehending the trauma that took place in the German landscape and in doing so in a time and generation removed from that history.

Partial Architectures began with a roll of film shot by my grandfather when he was stationed as an American serviceman in Germany during World War II. The film, undeveloped, returned home with him and sat untouched for nearly seventy years until it was found and developed shortly before his passing. However, the processed reel returned only a dense blackness, evidence of its exposure to light and time.

The absence of those photographs, along with the history and familial memory tied to them, was with me as I traveled to Germany to retrace my grandfather’s movements through the country and photograph the contemporary landscape. While passing through the places he too had once witnessed, I carried a small collection of other photographs he took that depicted the ruins of cities and towns leveled by bombings. These photographs served as direct visual references for a series of drawn diagrams that extrapolated from the ruins depicted and imagined the portions of buildings that had been destroyed.

In an effort to conjure something tangible from what had been lost, the series moves through a sequence of processes that translate the emptiness of the original negatives into something tangible and authentic. Beginning this process, my architectural drawings were laser-etched into the original strip of negatives, which was then contact printed as a series of cyanotypes that represent the medium’s connection to the architectural blueprint. Those same forms were computer modeled and made into physical objects through a three-dimensional printing process. Now existing as tangible forms, the imagined fragments of common buildings on the verge of destruction were re-photographed and digitally composited into my own documentary photographs of the German landscape, thus creating a final image that conflates fact, fiction, history, and experience across geography and generations.

Partial Architectures is a strained attempt to come to an understanding of both a collective and a family history. The impossibility of achieving this is mitigated by photography’s ability to fabricate an image that binds my grandfather’s record of his experience with my own and seemingly recovers what has in reality been irrevocably lost. In that way, these partial and speculative architectures are in dialogue with photography’s memorial function and themes of familial loss, generational memory, and the German impulse to remember its national history and trauma.