Past imperfect

(9/4/19)
The San Joaquin County Office of Education announced the purchase of the historic Kendall Building, located in on Weber Avenue near California Street in downtown Stockton. The building, built in the 1920s, will act as the new headquarters for the SJCOE’s Code Stack Academy. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

There is a genre of photography that isn’t concerned with what most people would consider traditional beauty, but rather a darker, dingier side of art. Urban decay photography deals with abandoned and rundown buildings and what can be found in their interiors.

(9/4/19)
A view of the interior of the historic Kendall building in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

The people who practice the art aren’t interested in shiny new buildings but instead are attracted to the forgotten places within a city. They seek buildings that are abandoned and most often are in some stage of dilapidation. Usually there isn’t an electricity so the interiors can be dark and moody being lit only by window light or holes in the walls and/or ceilings. One can find a myriad of textures from peeling paint to crumbling plaster. Quite often the architecture is old, so it can be like finding photographic treasures from a bygone era.

(9/4/19)
A view of the interior of the historic Kendall building in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

The problem with urban decay photography is that it usually involves trespassing. Sure, you can get shots of the outsides of buildings but to get the photos of places that others rarely or never see, one must go onto the property. While this doesn’t bother hardcore urban decay enthusiasts, I doubt the same could be said for the property owners. Due to the age and state of disrepair of some of the locations it can be hazardous just to walk around. You could easily fall though a floor or a wall or ceiling could collapse on you without warning.

(9/4/19)
A view of the interior of the historic Kendall building in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

I recently got some urban decay photos for myself, but I was invited to do it. The San Joaquin County Office of education recently purchased the historic Kendall’s Building to renovate it and locate its Code Stack Academy there. Officials held a press conference and partial walkthrough at its location in downtown Stockton. Over the years I have admired the building’s exterior architecture and now I had my chance to see what the inside looked like.

(9/4/19)
Indirect sunlight pours in through windows at the rear of the Kendall’s Building in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Kendall’s has been closed for longer than I’ve been at the Record (35 years). No one knew the exact year that the 5-story-building was built. The closest anyone could figure that it was constructed in the early to mid 1920s. Mike Huber with the Downtown Stockton Alliance described the store as “like a Target, but without the clothes.”

(9/4/19)
A electrical conduit hangs from the ceiling in the interior of the historic Kendall building in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

We were limited to the first floor of the building and after photographing some of the SJCOE officials, I wandered around to see what I could find. The interior was as one would expect after decades of neglect with rodents, pigeons and the occasional transient taking refuge in the place.

(9/4/19)
A small feather floats on an unseen spiderweb on staircase bannister in the interior of the historic Kendall building in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

There wasn’t any power and thus no lights. Indirect sunlight poured in through windows at the rear of the building and the single door opened in the front. It was a huge room that was seemingly empty, but upon closer inspection one could find small details here and there.

(9/4/19)
Rubble lays on the floor in the interior of the historic Kendall building in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

A fine layer of dirt and dust covered the floor as did pieces of crippled plaster from the ceiling and walls. Combined with the soft indirect light coming from the windows, they made for nice detail shots with great textures. A small, downey feather caught on an invisible spider’s web seemed to float in-between the railings of a staircase banister. And the different stages of crumbling plaster on a walls and floors were a chronicle of the erosion of the building’s interior.

(9/4/19)
Deteriorating paint and plaster gives texture to the interior walls of the historic Kendall’s Building in downtown Stockton. [CLIFFORD OTO/THE RECORD]

Urban decay photographers take chances with their safety and skirt the law by pursuing their passion. Fortunately, I was able to get my photos in relative safety and within the bounds of the law.

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