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Colour, space and havoc coalesce uneasily in Web photo exhibition

— August 2015

Associated media

John Bendel, Bug  (2013). Missing panels from the folding room dividers frame markings on the far wall in this chaotic image, the title of which is taken from a vandal's tags on the divider.

‘Forsaken School, Philadelphia’ by John Bendel

Photographer John Bendel has posted an exhibit of urban photographs called ‘Forsaken School, Philadelphia’ on his website at The exhibit comprises 37 photographs taken between 2009 and December of 2014 at a vacant school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with 1.5 million residents the fifth-largest city in the USA.

Built as a neighbourhood grade school in 1931, the building was closed by the Philadelphia Board of Education in 2007. Since then the empty structure has attracted vandals and graffiti artists whose sometimes-competing exploits are manifest throughout its interior.

Bendel told Cassone:
My camera loves the collision of purposeful graffiti and profligate vandalism in urban architectural contexts. At worst it finds chaotic profusions of line and colour and, at best, work of ferocious energy. That kind of chance imagery is unpredictable and often takes time to evolve. That's what happened at this school over the last seven years.

Bendel, 73, has sought out derelict architecture for subjects since the late 1960s. Bendel explains he retired his camera for all but family photographs in 1975, but culled earlier work for his first regional show in 2003. In 2005, he resumed active photography, this time with digital equipment. Drawn to the same desolation as he had been almost half a century earlier, Bendel says he has narrowed his focus to those places where images born of intention and chance, discipline and recklessness appear in structures the world has left behind.

After a number of regional exhibitions in his native New Jersey, Bendel's work was published last December on the photography website Exhibitions Without Walls where it can still be seen.

Also, take a look at work on show on Bendel's  own website.

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