Beautiful Destruction is a collection I have gradually been working on since November of 2015. The home that we had just paid off 10 days earlier burned to the ground, and along with it a lot of meaningful mementos, and our life’s savings. We had moved with little notice in the Fall of 2013 to the Ithaca area due to a promotion Nick received, and it became incredibly difficult to make time to drive 2 1/2 hours North to continue packing and transporting the rest of our belongings to our new home.
We were obviously devastated, but very thankful no one was hurt (Nick's aunt had been renting the property at the time, and luckily was not home that night). Due to a difficult financial time for us previously we had canceled our home owner's insurance in an attempt to stay afloat, and sadly had not renewed it.Our plan was to put it on the market in the spring, and put that money aside to use as a down payment on a forever home within the next few years. Instead the property value was a fifth of what we had paid, and it was going to cost us a few thousand dollars to have the remains cleaned up. All these dreams and plans we had were just gone. The worst part was that almost everything from Nick's childhood was gone, things that were either irreplaceable or far too expensive to replace.
Classic Angela, I brought my camera along when we went to see the remains for ourselves, and to dig through the rubble for anything that might have survived. Seeing it in person was incredibly surreal, but I found it strangely beautiful. It was actually kind of fascinating - seeing the way the fire transformed different materials, and the surprising items that somehow made it relatively unscathed (including a Ouija Board!!!). I saw an incredible range of colors, shapes, textures, and compositions... so naturally I got out my camera and it was glued to my face much of the time we were there. There were so many stories to tell, emotions to convey, and beauty to be found in our loss. We’d also come across the remains of things that reminded us different times in our lives, and spent a lot of time reminiscing on the lives we had lived so far.
Working on these photographs was one to the most significant ways for me to cope with what had happened to us. I found myself being excited at times seeing what I had captured and it was good to try to make something good come out of something awful. It still hurt, we were still angry & heart-broken, but it gave me something to filter my emotions.
A couple of months later, our dog Duncan, who was the most important part of our lives, passed away at the age of 10 due to a mass on his brain. That was literally the most painful thing either of us had ever experienced, and with the emotional wounds from the fire still fresh it was unbearable. He was what had always helped us through the hard times in our lives, and had helped keep our chins up in the weeks following the fire. I felt dead inside, and completely void of hope.
So the collection was put on hold for a while, only working on it every now and again. I just didn't really care about much of anything anymore. It felt like the universe hated us, and like nothing we strived for could ever come to fruition.
Eventually I started to work on it more often, and have a pretty large collection going. I still have much more to work on, but due to life and my own health problems it is something I have to take my time with.
I am going to begin uploading the work I have done so far on this project, and over time continue to add more as I am able to process more of the photos. It could happen in a few months, it could happen in a few years, or it may never be completed. I just know it is something that is incredibly important to me, and that I have to take it at my own pace. These aren’t just pretty pictures; they are a thousand little stories of our lives, our loss, our changing values, and the way I see the world. I would eventually like to assemble them into a book, but that will be an entirely different and daunting creative process. I have also found inspiration in a lot of these images to start doing some fabric design, and have begun a collection of heat sublimation dye printed apparel and accessories using some of these photographs. (You can view and purchase these designs on our Facebook Shop www.facebook.com/nickangula/shop/.)
So I hope you enjoy the work from this collection, or find something meaningful in it. If not, at least I know I did something I am proud of, and that I didn’t let this completely destroy me. That’s the real goal.
All Images by Angela Gleason, Photo Nerd Photography. Copyright Photo Nerd Photography