Tony Worobiec: Abandoned on the Plains

It’s always a pleasure and a privilege to welcome internationally renowned photographers to the camera club and this is no exception for Tony Worobiec who made a return visit recently. Tony’s presentation of images by himself and his wife Eva was titled ‘Fragments of an American Dream’ – a seminal work on the depopulating communities of Dakota and Montana. This came about after a chance encounter with an abandoned vehicle in the mid 1990’s and the realisation that quite large communities had imploded once elderly people and their children had got tired of living an isolated existence.

Sometimes quite large towns had disappeared within just a generation or two and properties had been left to decay. This provided Tony with a documentary project that culminated in a large number of dramatic and powerful images that showed the decline of a lifestyle.

Strangely although the images presented a somewhat depressing view of communities that had ultimately failed, there was a beauty to the images that could not be denied. And this was often presented by the impression of space and the dramatic cloud formations that formed in a landscape familiar with tornados.

But the pictures were far more than landscapes without people. Tony and Eva also explored the insides of many of these deserted properties documenting the detritus of what they had left behind. Respectfully observing no trespassing notices, they had dared to record the rooms left open to the elements and wildlife, taking care not to move anything and to first check for wildlife inhabitants such as racoons and rattlesnakes! Amazingly, even during places they re-visited on another occasion the items they had photographed were still there as poignant reminders of lives now moved on.
Tony also emphasised that the images he was presenting were ‘the real thing’- not enhanced by any Photoshop filters or artificial ageing.

This was a thought-provoking presentation by one of the world’s leading documentary photographers and a reminder of the fragility of human existence even in supposedly the world’s richest economy.