richard mark dobson – the crest hotel

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Richard Mark Dobson

The Crest Hotel

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editors note: this is a long essay…but, i think certainly worthy of discussion…stick with it…do not even start to watch this if you do not have a solid 15 minutes at your disposal….. -david alan harvey

I remember the Crest Hotel way back in the 70’s. In fact it was from this hotel that I gathered my first impressions of our newly adopted land, South Africa.

Emigrating here with my parents from England in January 1975, I was 12 years old when we arrived at the door of the Crest after a short cab ride from the austere Jan Smuts airport.

Upon arrival at this comfortable 3 star hotel, a stone’s throw from the bustling boulevards of Hillbrow, I was awestruck by the views from our 12th floor window. Glittering skyscrapers and a zillion apartments surrounded us on all sides; our hotel it seemed was at the epicenter of all this glitz, with its lively terrace and sparkling pool. For the two weeks that we lived in Hillbrow at the Crest while my father sought rented accommodation in the leafier northern suburbs, I gathered impressions of this ‘Americanized’ metropolis, admiring its scale & lofty buildings, sensing its economic presence and buzz, all the while searching out the exotica of black faces to remind myself that I was in Africa after all.

Certainly during those first few weeks while strolling past the café & bakeries and soda pop joints of Pretoria & Kotze streets on balmy summer evenings, I could see clearly that this was the abode and playground for a predominantly white cast. I saw lots of happy white faces! An illusion of blissful living. An illusion of harmony and human equality. Yes this was a place of happy shiny white people, and I, the little white kid who’d just stepped off a plane in Africa from England, was entranced.

32 years later, I return to the Crest. Still entranced but for different reasons. The place has changed, the city has changed, and the country has changed. I’ve changed.

The Crest hotel therefore is my personal attempt to join dots, and answer pertinent questions to my own sense of failed idealism and dislocation. Projected through the presence of others, the Crest after all is where my journey to South Africa began. For many presented here today though, this is where their journey will end, or has ended already. It’s where their relationship with South Africa is coming to an end too, but certainly did not begin.

As an artist/photographer I intend to explore further themes or locations that I hope will allow me to investigate my relationship with this country and my country of birth, England. And how the two sit incongruously side by side within my own psyche. The Crest is where I chose to begin this investigation.


Richard Mark Dobson (Cape Town 20 April 2009).


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Richard Mark Dobson


115 Responses to “richard mark dobson – the crest hotel”

  • extinction of a leopard or extinction of man
    decades or thirty two years or tomorrow
    you pick

  • I’m stupidly almost speechless. A story of gigantic proportions, told without being pushy about it, with exquisite economy. Bravo!!!

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. You have obviously put a lot of work in here Richard and it shows. I especially love the photography, the portraits are wonderful. Great styling of the piece throughout. Yes it is long, probably too long, but it didn’t bother me too much. I was very taken by the piece so stuck it out. I guess this is a little sad in a way… that 15 minutes seems a long time. A reflection on how fast we need to consume these days…

    Very interesting work though! Off to check out your site now. I’ll certainly be looking at you portraiture first! Love it!

  • i have no words… truly original… truly amazing work… this is a product of very deep meaning… i have never seen anything like this… so electric… its amazing… very nice work!

  • Extraordinary essay. It is a story that really goes beyond just what is happening in South Africa, but all over the world…

    And, a twist at the end that is handled in a bizarrely beautiful way.

    Truly remarkable storytelling… Congratulations.

    -Noah Darnell

  • wow. speechless. remarkable. thank you.

  • First thoughts: without a doubt, straight from the heart.

    It works; wonderfully, very poignant, very moving. This is an extraordinary example of how the technonogy available today can be used to GREAT effect. If this is is a beginning for Richard I can’t wait to see the completed body of work!

    Many, many thanks for showing this, Richard.


  • its tough to find the right words to express when i see work like this. praise is in order without a doubt but it has to be expressed in a somber kind of way.
    congratulations on your originality and singular perspective.
    i found this to be an incredibly interesting description.


  • Simply fantastic! I really don’t know what to say.
    Creative, original, deep, brave, … and much more!

  • Nice work. People telling their own stories, really quite powerful.

  • “Who builds houses for you when you have nowhere to live? Who gives you tents and blankets when you are shivering with cold? Who nurses you, who takes care of you, who comes here…”–J.M. Coetzee, “Life and Times of Michael K”

    “But photography, has its greatest impact when one believes in the picture.”-Roger Ballen

    On the morning of October 13, 200_, at approximately 9:25 am, I was teaching a group of ESL students and we were standing, as if a group of soldiers, facing the large window of my classroom, which overlooks the courtyard of my school and faces West toward the tall, glittery wealth of the affluent neighborhood of Yorkville, which abuts against the location of our school, trying to speed-lick as many adjectives as possible within two minutes out into the air, inspired by the steel-blue overcast morning, when before our eyes dropped a large, blue-flapping material that was quickly caught by a rush of vacuumed vroooooom and brush, soon after in a snap of silence between the falling blue material and the silence of breath between the student who stood next to me pausing between adjectives and shock, was a cacophonous detonation, an explosion that seemed to rock the building and sent a shock-wave of silence upward and outward, as if a bomb had been set off beneath the bulwark of our school building and for what seemed to be an interminable length of I stood there unable to move or look out the window and the adjectives ceased.

    At the foot of my school, lay the body of a distraught 38-year old woman who’d leapt from her apartment’s balcony at the top of the building in which our school is housed. By the time I had made it down the steps and out the door to where her blue-clothed body lay, she had already perished and the building’s security guard, who’d in a grotesque fate of misfortune had been sitting on one of the benches taking a rest, was shaking in hysterics unable to say anything and I looked at her, and then at her right leg, which was elbowed in a position of miraculous and unnatural contortion, over her head, and then i looked up and heard the screaming of a woman’s shout….and since that day, i have looked up every single day i enter the building and I am unable to let go of the grief i have felt and the implausibility of her wind-draping body falling in front of my and my students yes, of all that silence, of the silence, of the police bag, the pulling away of the body, the thin, magenta river of blood that tatoo’d the auburn brick and the swatch of the greater damage which was unveiled when she was removed from the courtyard 3 1/2 hours later. I could not photographs for 3 months after that October day….and for some time, I’d consider giving up photographing for good.

    Our lives our monumental in their brevity and in the importance of their nature, of the quixotic way we gather and disappear, of the way we are lost and regain, of the way an entire cosmos of existence thrives in places we have no clue about and that the strong, black pull of entropy and time measures us, stalks us, and most of the time we refuse to see that.

    This story is, in fact, about a Motel in the center of a South African city that has undergone change, just as monumental as the change that the nation itself has undergone. This is also a story of these singular lives that have, but for the specific appearances of difference, the same band and width of each of our lives. This is also a story of a little boy who was carried from one nation to another and returned to understand how his own life is in fact, in the arc and the brevity, no different from those who still call this place home. This is also a story of grief, the particular grief of a very young man who lept to his death and the wake of that grief is the same peeling away as the walls of this hotel. But it is also the story of each of us. Do not comfort yourself with your wealth or your cameras or your indifference to worlds unknown or unrecognizable. This is a story of each of our lives and the difficult and broad circumference around which we seldom are able to make a full reckoning of…..

    that each of us shall meet with and be confronted by grief is one of the undeniable truths of living, that we are charged with making sense of that and with the loss of all things, and how we go about this in myriad ways is the one testament of this life afforded us….

    how best to express that and to make it truth, our own small, peculiar truths which speak to the universality of each of our lives….

    This story, a testament, to the grief of living, but through grief we are often better able to appreciate that which will sooner than we expect be writ from us…..

    Monumental, Richard, and heartbreaking….

    thank you…..

    all the best

  • What can I say..this is just breath taking, most interesting and touching piece I have seen for a long, long time. When I see this, I know photographers, storytellers, will survive, despite all the grim predictions that the video will replace the photo on the web etc. That makes me incredible proud and happy, even though the story is sad.. Your style is special, the combination of details, interiour, portraits and video work very well.
    Very inspiring, thank you so much, Richard!

  • wow..
    couldn’t look at some of the images,
    could do without all the slow zooms,
    and want to see more of your images…
    the grief
    while you were there?!?!?!?!?!
    so fucking strong…
    thats what I’m left with..

  • ok, i’m not infected by this, so if don’t read this if you want more of what you’re hearing above.

    I’m convinced that a great deal of effort went into this project and because of that I’ve a great deal of respect for you Richard, but when you couple the access you had with the imploding powder keg that is j-berg, then I can’t help but think you need to use what you learned on this effort and carve out another deeper chapter.

    For me personally, I feel this is weak in comparison to what you might have already done, but not presented, or saw and heard, but chose not to collect. The angle is genius, but the cut is shallow.

    I really don’t know anything about you Richard, but I know for a fact that you saw and heard much more controversial things to record and witnessed much more controversial things to capture, and from what you’ve shown us, you had the talent to collect and present both, now in j-berg and soon the same implosion in capetown.

    So I only have one question, with all the hard-hitting subject matter you were soaking wet in, what made you craft this story line, again the approach is perfect, one step away from a gated community, but the reveal is, well, not that revealing.

  • Richard, I did happen to enjoy looking this and was Jealous of your subject. However, after reading what Joe wrote I couldn’t agree more… Specifically

    “The angle is genius, but the cut is shallow”.

    You did a great piece, However, I too feel like there is a lot more nitty gritty stuff you may just have left out or overlooked, (Maybe for personal reasons), in your edit, (I suffer from this problem)???

    Thanks for the essay.

  • Richard – This is powerful work, so honest and genuine. My mind is racing.

    I particularly love how you have told the story with a defined photographic aesthetic…but not at the expense of honesty, dignity, and humanity. I think that this is a difficult balance to strike, and you did it very well.

    Thank you very much.


  • Whew. A big exhale when it stopped. Had I been holding my breath? I think so. At least from the photo of the shattered window on. A story yes, but true. I am in awe of where Richard took me, where each of these indivduals took me. A story shot by an outsider whom his subjects let inside. Too long? Hardly. Life is long and this was life, at least one photographer’s view of life. Magnificent.


  • Very impressive!
    Honestly brutal!
    A straight forward confrontation with reality and life!
    A great way to tell a story!
    Richard, I’m speechless!
    Keep going!

  • Awkward (in a good way) and ruthless; unyielding. Well done.

  • Excellent. one of the best. very powerful.
    Almost movie…
    hats off…
    anyway… I have to buy a DVD camera…
    I am movie maker…
    I think….


  • Impacted me like a slow motion bullet. Powerful and heartbreaking. Beautifully constructed Richard.

  • You say this is a personal journey, and there is no arguing with that. And it is strong and well done piece.

    But I don’t understand the point beyond your personal journey. Images of decay and hopelessness with no useful response possible have little value, IMHO. Yeah, for a lot of folks life sucks and then they die. It may be that way for many of us should we outlive friends and family and money and community.

    I just don’t think we need photographic essays to remind of us our fragility and real lack of control. To what useful end is this very personal essay other than than for a bunch of us to say in response, “Whoa, that’s deep.”

  • “The angle is genius, but the cut is shallow.”

    Joe, I’ll be honest here but with no malice toward you personally. Okay? This statement made me agitated, irritated, and just wonder how could you say this after viewing this. The story builds, piece by piece, life by life to a stunning and awful conclusion. It also invoked one of the best things I’ve ever seen Bob B. write – honest and straightforward with no embellishment, like this piece, both awful and real. Have you watched people die Joe? Friends, family, strangers, cultures, dreams by their own hand, or the hand of fate or god or just because or whatever “it” is – figuratively and literally? Have you lost, I mean really, really lost? I’m sorry, I do not mean to make this personal and I am sure you have experienced many things in your travels but this essay makes we want to defend it somehow for its simplicity and honesty, heart and depth, yes depth. You are of course entitled to your opinion, and have done much to raise discussion levels here, but I just think you are pushing too hard on this one. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Richard wishes he had done something else. I don’t know but jesus christ man, does anything truly rise to the occasion for you. So we should all say what we think, really think, here, yes? And I applaud you for doing that. I am just doing the same, and what I swore to myself I wouldn’t do. Damn. But you pissed me off, and I don’t even know you :)) Peace.

  • Jim, I would suggest not watching any movies then, except blockbusters of course. Damn, did it again. I’m going to shut up and go back to building my studio/office/workshop now, I think I’ll call it Burn Studios Northwest. Y’all are all invited, especially Joe and Jim.

  • young tom, what is the value of this piece to any of us beyond the author?

    I’ve had friends commit suicide, my mother died a slow, painful death from diabetes. My dad died a long, slow terrible death from Alzheimer’s. Yeah, it sucked. Life is full of tragedy. But what does the author of this piece want to say to me about all this crap? Sorry, I just don’t see the point.

  • Thankyou Richard.

    thankyou bobblack. thankyou DAH

    What a moving piece of work.

    I am shaken, very sad, very moved. Words fail me here. I’ll have to digest this for awhile.

    I don’t know if there are other burn-like magazines on the web, but I’m continually challenged, inspired, entertained, and ever so happy to be here.
    I love the multi-media aspect of this and the other multi-media pieces we’ve seen here. This IS the new magazine format. I was trying to mentally compare the experience of viewing a piece here on burn, VS the experience of holding a physical magazine. This is so much more (though I can’t read it in the bath).

    Anyway, congrats Richard Mark.

    gordon L.

  • Jim, fair enough but I see the answer in your response.

  • Thank you, young tom, for saying what you said, both to Joe and to Jim. You took the words out of my mouth but expressed them much better than I could have done myself. When I posted my own comment above, all I was thinking about/feeling were my own reactions to Richard’s essay. “Deep” is definitely an apt adjective to use here.

    And yes, Jim, life sucks. It also soars. And art IMHO best serves life by mirroring both. Life just IS, and that’s what we have to work with. It’s ALL we have to work with.


  • So, Patricia, you see this as an “art” piece. O.K. That lifts it beyond rational discussion.

  • Jim, I’m sorry you see no value here.

    Lordy Jim, does any kind of photography have value to you?, does any photography or art make a difference in our lives? What would you choose to put here?

    Since we’re all just gonna suffer and die, I guess nothing really matters.

    Is there anything about which you are passionate? Is there a single story or photograph in the latest issue of your newspaper which has any real value to anyone or that will change anybodys life, or are all those words and pictures just there to fill in the space between the ads?

    BTW, glad to see you back here Jim.

    Gordon L.

  • Gordon, what difference does this essay make in your life?

    Yeah, there will be a photo story from Friday night’s 12 hour local American Cancer Society Relay for Life event, which raises many thousands of dollars for cancer research. There were 56 “survivors” there, among the hundreds that turned out to stay all night at the event. These “survivors” are alive today as a direct result of the research supported by events like this. Cancer sucks but here is something you can directly do about it!

  • A leopard can’t change it’s spots, but it looks like a photographer can turn into a visual storyteller.

    All the best


  • Jim

    We are all touched by Cancer. Raising money is a good thing. If your newspaper helps raise awareness, and as a by-product, money, that is a good thing, which can in the long run change peoples lives. The celtic band I play with has raised over $30,000 for cancer research.

    If your newspaper donated advirtising space for the event, I’ll even be more impressed.

    You never answered my other questions, but I’ll try to answer yours.

    It is clearly too early for any significant shift in the universe as a result of my viewing this piece. I’ve only viewed it once, and will do so again, perhaps many times.

    Si has reminded me of the pathos of our human existence, my place in it, and reminded me to be more generous with my time and attention to people who are even older than me, and maybe a little odd and needy. I loved the inclusion of the snaps of peoples former lives. Yes, there is a story behind all those pathetic faces. I was at a weekend musical gathering. One of the performers mentioned doing a regular gig at a senior care home. My group used to do this, but has not for a few years. Seeing this essay, I realize we need to do this.

    This essay has expanded my appreciation for non-traditional photo technique, and composition. Richards use of flash is pretty bizarre, lighting from below, deliberately creating shadows to add an un-expected graphic element into the mix. I like to use musical analogy, it’s like an un-expected grace note, or harmony. It would certainly be considered a flaw by purists, but somehow, it works and adds to the texture.

    The essay has expanded my view of the world beyond the safe little confines of my comfortable life.

    The rest will have to wait, a friend has just arrived asking for a ride to the hospital with a son that needs stitching up.


    Gordon L.

  • Gordon, do you really need reminding about the pathos of our existence? Look at any newspaper, go over to the Magnum or VII website. Read CNN’s website. How much more do we need?

    I certainly have no argument with the photographer’s technique. The whole piece is well done. No question. The photographer says it is a personal exploration, and it is certainly valid as that.

    But for others who view it, where is the hope in this? What is the value in exposing hopelessness when there is no reasonable expectation that the viewer can in any way effect the outcome? It’s just more voyeurism. And exploitation. And there is too much of that in photography already.

  • Ah Jim, is “art” such a dirty word in your book that we can’t even use it in the same breath as “photography”? To me, the two are often interchangeable, probably because I was an artist for three decades before getting serious about photography. I bring the same eye to my work with a camera that I brought to my work with brushes, paint, pens, ink, pencils, handmade paper, wood and clay. Sure my subjects might be different but the same rules of composition, value, color and dynamic tension apply. Sometimes I am all about documenting exactly what I see; other times I am more concerned with expressing how something feels to me. Occasionally I use my photography to make a point or raise awareness in the viewer. Sometimes I simply play.

    Does this invalidate my work as a photographer in your eyes? Do I have to be a photojournalist and ONLY a photojournalist? Is there no other way to use a camera in your opinion?

    Regarding Richard’s essay, what are we supposed to do with all those unpleasant realities like suicides? Because there’s no money to raise for a cure, do we just ignore this subject? If we do that, aren’t we running the risk of putting our heads in the sand? I’m reminded of the quote that is posted on the home page of Jim Nachtwey’s website: “I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.”


  • JIM:

    voyeurism comes from the disconnect between the viewer and the subject, from the mechanics of watching something and feeling neither affinity nor connective tissue with the lives that are unfolding before you. voyeurism stems from a separation, a disconnection between viewing and feeling, a predatory sensorial reaction.

    That you feel neither connection to or propinquity with either the work or the lives offered suggests that this story has indeed become for you one of purely a voyeuristic experience. This does not define it as such for others or in it’s essence. Your disconnect with others who’ve experienced the story wholly differently is an indication your inability to connect with story (for the reasons you’ve described) or with other’s emotional experience. Your voyeuristic reaction does not vitiate the power or the importance of this story, except with regard to your own experience. Voyeurism and exploitation takes its form from an inability to connect, to feel, to experience another’s life and circumstance as that fit as their own.

    I find your castigation of both the work (but on the grounds of purely technical achievement) and others reactions as not only cynical but turgid and obdurate. That we are bound by stories rather than severed by them seems to be a position that makes little headway with your reaction to work. A remarkable mindset indeed. You questioned the value, beyond the author, of the piece. I tried to write about that in the last paragraph of my comment: but that value failed with regard to your experience. this, however, does not eradicate the value of the story for me, and others: that before us pass lives we have no inkling about, rarely investigate, seldom care, but continue on our ways through all our self-conceited blindness. We fail to connect to the world beyond our own, just as the that city’s citizens little know, most likely, of the lives that are contained in that hotel that the greater area surrounding has past beyond.

    All is always, Jim, the same story. That you are unreached by this piece is not a condemnation of the work or the story or it’s necessity. That you continually question the worth of other’s reaction seems to me a grotesquely cynical arrogance that continues to confound me. At a remove, it becomes funny. At a remove, it becomes jaded. At a remove, it becomes dreary. At a removes, it becomes isolating.


    “The angle is genius, but the cut is shallow.”…

    quite a clever quip, but I havent the faintest idea at all what the hell it means?

    the character of critique is to be able to digest work, not for what it might have been, but for what it is, ….I’m not flummoxed that you felt unmoved or felt it failed (again, personal reactions) but that the suggestion that the failure lay with the choices of stories told….and yet, none of us were there, lived this experience….that kind of questioning seems odd….

    all the best

  • something about this reminds me of Martin Scorcesse

  • I was surprised when it went to the suicide. I loved the shot of the body in the pool with the blood. Sounds strange to say that about a photo of a suicide in a pool but it really struck me. The sequence from the broken window (which I was perplexed with when it first came on with the man weeping), the one legged man and the videos in the dining room. All great except for the man in the plaid shirt seemed too splashed out with flash and even that series was interesting.

    The shot of the table in the sequence of the man with one leg. It felt like a one legged table because it only had one chair.

    This essay I thoroughly enjoyed and 15 minutes went very quickly. Richard, even though the subject matter is of people at the end of their life in a hotel at the end of its life…extraordinary. I loved this essay. Thanks for sharing.


  • This doesn’t remind me of life or death or the things we should value about our dear existence. At no point do I look at this photo essay or video as something to take from and learn from. At no point do I feel upset or sympathetic towards any of these people. It’s a beautiful piece and a beautifully told story in Richard’s own way.
    For Jim who feels like there is hardly any sense in showing images of true life experiences, that they offer no hope…for life….well this is just strange and frustrating to read. A story is being told, connections are being made, and curiously, brilliant photographs are composed for us to take in for a sense of lived experiences as they are wonderful deathly or lively as they may be.
    I read something like what you wrote and I can’t help but feel like you’ve completely missed the point. If you can’t see something like what Richard put together and just get it simply for what it is then you’ve most likely gone too far or maybe just not gotten too far from yourself.
    Photography can’t offer the kind of depth that a truly lived experience does to the individual who was actually there with or without the camera. For the rest of us involved in viewing, I do not believe that we get to scrutinize an image in relationship to “a life” or “life” because we have nothing to do with that image. We come after the fact and I guess it seems we’re lucky if we feel it or understand it.

    I just saw this and i liked it very much

  • Richard, I went to sleep last night with very strong emotions after viewing The Crest Hotel. This morning I viewed your work a second time and read all the comments – I am no less excited than I was last night. A mixture of awe, sadness, disgust, appreciation and respect of your accomplishment.

    A question – how long did you spend shooting at the Crest?

    Thank you for an extraordinary experience!

  • Richard I applaud you, this is a great story

    A story told through the situation of decaying individuals in a decaying Hotel, So what, you might think, life is tough get on with it, (“But what does the author of this piece want to say to me about all this crap? I just don’t see the point”). Once you step away from your regional papers, regional concerns and regional demographic, this is the story of South Africa , it is a National and International problem (look at Zimbabwe). You might want to check out at to get an idea of what is happening. Sure Jim, I respect you for your forthright opinion, you certainly bring up valid points. If I understand it right you are an editor on a newspaper surely you should have grasped that concept, really the world is bigger than Texas.

    Not only is this story striking by being able to tell the story of a nation, it is also the access that Richard has achieved, Hillbrow is an extremely violent neighbourhood of an extremely violent city. I have lived in and shot a documentary in Soweto, which was tough, but Hillbrow we didn’t even get the cameras out.

    Richard can you drop me a line, I think we have some stuff in common.


  • with 20/20 hindsight i really don’t expect anyone other than Richard or a native South African, or possibly a member of the project team moving a service team out of j-berg and into cape town, to understand why i made the comment i did.

    There is a dark secret that is only being whispered around the anglo world and i don’t think anything is sinister about that secret other than it’s being whispered and not said out loud. i hoped this essay would say it out loud and not just braze it with a micro decay story, or contra-gentrification story.

    recently the bottom fell out of the stock market, it was sudden, deep and severe. It is nothing in comparison to the degree that the value on human life fell out of j-berg, it seemed just as sudden, even deeper, and more severe, and I’m not talking starving here. there is an implosion of infrastructure there that is just mesmerising. The states has nothing on j-berg when it come to gun culture, if you live outside of a gated community a gun seems as necessary as water, for all races.

    so sorry if my comment seemed so odd. i was obviously looking for something that i wanted it to be and that was of course selfish. i would still like to hear some discourse from Richard as to whether he squelched the macro message that he both knew of before he got to j-berg or saw when he was down there. And i will go back with a bit more patience to see if I have missed something. If i have i will of course apologise, my response was very knee-jerk, but i stand by it based on my first run through.

  • This is utterly fantastic. Having also arrived in SA in the 80’s from the UK and also staying in Hillbrow, this brought back so many memories.

  • Yes Bob.
    There’s nothing more terrifying than hearing a scream of anguish.
    This story reminds me more of what a friend recently asked, ‘what the difference between a metaphorical Heaven and Hell may be’ rather than, life’s tough so get on with it.
    Her observation was that in her metaphorical Heaven people shared, rather than selfishly not in her Hell.

  • Hi Joe,
    Richard please forgive me if I am wrong, but I believe Richard started this project a wee while ago so This project might not have coincided with current events

    Forgive me if I am talking out of turn.

  • Regarding the question of when Richard worked on this essay, at least the segment on the death of John Blamini was shot recently as his dates were 1983-2008.

  • Thanks Ian,

    i’m really open minded about exploring this, when ever i sit alone so polarised in an opinion i want to figure out quickly if i’m the lighthouse or the aircraft-carrier demanding to be given way to a pending collision.

    Ok, with a longer considered view and one with out feeling like I was waiting for Jack Nicholson to scream out, he did in fact order the code red. My simple hang-up with the essay is this:

    It seems far too micro. It‘s as if this story is specific to this decaying area, or even specific to a soon to be derelict hotel.

    exploring the micro with out admitting there’s a macro elephant in the room disturbs me, but that’s just me, and i can easily get that no one else might think that. i also think this is why Jim Powers might not get hooked into this, he’s like ‘this stuff happens everywhere’ and he’s right as viewed here. You can find a replica hotel like this in Palm Springs even with the same empty pool and the same people there from when times were better (even a dog women!), getting mugged, turning tricks, selling crack, and yep, committing suicide, I know this for a fact, my grandmother used to run it, but this is not that.

    Decay and derelict areas happen inside healthy cities and the localised spirit is valid for these ‘neighbourhood’ stories. J-berg is much bigger than a neighbour hood and ‘going derelict’ an overly graceful way to describe its demise.

    i suppose some might think it was an amazing coincidence that someone jumped out a window at exactly the same time a photographer was there documenting the hotel’s demise. Flip that on the other side. What if the essay ended in a way that you know that it happened already ten times within ten city block during the time the documentary was collected. Richard, did you not record a single gun going off?

    at about 13:42 in the essay the key witness starts to deliver, but it is lost in all the things in this essay that just seem to water down anything other a ‘groovy’ media story. i don’t really know what the message was Richard, is it a story of decay?, a story of general change?, is it a history lesson?, is it a build up to a single tragedy? Is it all of these things? Well then is it concise and cohesive enough to pull this ambitious effort off? Even with a different, more clinical, less personal hat on, there are parts of this effort (N,S,E.W views) that just make me think, is this really necessary?, or the long time spent panning into the bar, what does that accomplish?

    i weigh and measure everything in life i set out to enjoy the same way, whether it was a bong hit, or a concert, or an essay on Burn. ‘Did I feel entertained enough to warrent my time or money’ So yes, i whole-heartily felt i was entertained and i’m more glad than not for experiencing it, so Success. this shouldn’t mean that much, but i’d like to balance what looks like a lop-sided initial comment. I hope i’ve explained my unfair baggage that i brought with me to this essay.

    But please, Richard, come out and give some more context, I’m really wanted the second DVD with the editors notes on it!

  • Bob, you’re correct, guilty as charged, but for the first time i’m pure audience on this one, not essay critic.

  • Jim Powers, this story is news worthy.

    i suppose there is erosion and there might be such a thing as global warming. j-berg is not the product of erosion; the polar caps of social infrastructure are melting in S.A., first in j-Berg and the water is already rising in capetown, more stories like this might not curb it, but might make it less of a surprise when the international-level time-bomb goes off. i have a very small dose to form my opinion, but City of God always comes to mind only on a capital-city-level, when i think of j-berg.

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