823 Photo Collective steps inside a familiar friend

Posted 7/1/20

The elegant Hastings Building, designed by Elmer H. Fisher and completed in 1890 in downtown Port Townsend, is the subject of the next show at the 823 Photo Collective.

The new exhibition includes …

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823 Photo Collective steps inside a familiar friend

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The elegant Hastings Building, designed by Elmer H. Fisher and completed in 1890 in downtown Port Townsend, is the subject of the next show at the 823 Photo Collective.

The new exhibition includes the work of four photographers — Johanna King, Ginny Banks, Rick York, and Joe Tysl — who have been given access to the upper floors of the Hastings Building on numerous occasions over the last few years. 

King said the photographers’ visits to the iconic Romanesque-style structure gave them the unusual opportunity to bring their individual perspectives to the same subject matter. The photographers found the abandoned rooms and other evocative remains of its former life attractive and exciting. 

“It’s a fabulous thing to see,” King said of the interior. 

“Everybody’s got their own take,” she said of the diversity of styles used in the exhibit.

The 823 Photo Collective is located at 823 Water St., only a few short steps from the Hastings Building.

While the building is slated for complete renovation, it has stood nearly empty for years, and King thanked the Dudley family for letting the photographers inside repeatedly. 

The photographers spent hours roaming the upstairs, and some of the shooters revisited the same places in the building for subsequent shots over the years, only to find things had changed since their last visit.

“It’s as though ghosts are in the building because things move,” King said. “What was there before isn’t there, and what isn’t there is what’s there now. It’s really fun to see.”

While photography of ruins and buildings in decay have grown in popularity in recent years — Detroit’s abandoned factories and neighborhoods come to mind — and has been criticized by some as exploitive or lacking the context of those who live there, others see the genre as important moments that capture the fragile lifespan of the built environment. 

King said the story behind the images is what makes them evocative and emotionally compelling.

The Hastings Building has been a signature piece of the Port Townsend skyline since it was first built. 

A news story in The Leader, published in November 1889 and recounted on the website for Hastings Estate Company, which owns the landmark, earned the structure accolades before it was even finished. The Leader noted the structure was “conceded by all to be the most elegant building in the city.”

“I think that, in this case with the Hastings Building, it was a vibrant, important part of Port Townsend at one time, and now it’s in this in-between stage, King said. “”It’s decaying, and it’s got a future, though, because the Dudley family is planning to renovate it.”

“It’s a point in time, but it’s also part of a narrative. And the narrative, for me personally, is the most interesting thing,” she said.

“I’m always looking at, ‘What does this tell us in the bigger picture?” King said.

The gallery opens on Thursday, July 2 and visitors can see the new exhibit from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursdays, 3 to 7 p.m. Fridays, and 4 to 8 p.m. Saturdays. Physical distancing will be observed, and visitors must wear a mask (provided if necessary).

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