Any idea what’s going on here? Go ahead, take a minute to think about it.

If you’re like me you might have drawn a rather violent conclusion–an explosion of some kind, or perhaps an earthquake or other such disaster. The relatively intact nature of the tree in the foreground as well as the structural integrity of the building in the background seem to point to an isolated incident that only affected a portion of the building, and the sheer level of debris and rubble makes one think of a scene that might have been played out on World News Tonight with an on-location reporter telling stories of conflict from deep inside a war zone.

Or, perhaps, the truth could be something else entirely. Watch what happens when I go back and reverse two key editing choices that I made during postproduction.

Aside from some color adjustments, the key things to note here are the fence in the foreground with the “Danger: Construction Zone” sign as well as one other notable difference: the Permit Parking Only notice affixed to the post. What you’re actually looking at here is the planned demolition of Cordell Hall, a building on the OSU campus that has been slated for removal for quite some time now. I first heard news that this building was going to come down several years ago but it wasn’t until January of 2018 that the process actually began, and from what I’ve heard it will be replaced with a lush green lawn adorned with perhaps a statue or other such ornament to honor one of OSU’s big donors, T. Boone Pickens.

The reason I posted it here on Weekly Fifty is partly because it’s not often I get the chance to take a picture of a building in mid-demolition, but also to demonstrate the power of photography and visual storytelling and the effect that a few simple edits can have on how a viewer interprets an image. I know I’m guilty of drawing conclusions almost immediately when I see pictures posted on social media and even in print, but if I take a little more time to investigate the story behind the image it might not be as strange or shocking as I might think. Some would say that the act of cropping a picture just a bit, or removing an unsightly blemish such as a metered parking sign, is merely an artistic choice and doesn’t impact the image as a whole. I would say that, as photographers, we just need to be careful and be aware of how our edits (and even our initial compositions, as I could have easily just moved to a different position when I shot this instead of cropping it and ended up with the same result) can change how our images are seen and interpreted.

That being said, it sure was fun to see this demolition as it progressed. My wife and I even drove our kids over, parked the car, and just watched as excavators and dump trucks laid waste to this building. It was like the world’s biggest IMAX screen, and I would be lying if I said the kids were the only ones who were enjoying watching it come down :)


  1. Another thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Jacqueline says

    Excellent reminder! And neat that you and your family can enjoy the simple pleasure of a free “IMAX” together!

  3. Simon,

    My first thought was that it was a demolition, probably because we have had several buildings come down here at BYU over the last several years. Experience and expectations also affects our perception of an image. No matter how careful the photographer is, as in any type of communication including art, the audience also plays a major part in the interpretation. Perhaps a picture of a dog’s food bowl would bring to mind to one person a Great Dane while to someone else it would suggest a Chihuahua, all based on the audiences experience. With this variable in interpretation, it is amazing that any of us understand what someone else is trying to communicate; yet, you seem to be able to communicate clearly your vision and inspiration. Thanks for the image and the thoughts.

    • “Experience and expectations also affects our perception of an image.”

      Dennis, that’s hugely important and I’m so glad you said it! You gave some really good examples of how experience affects perception and understanding, and I’m going to try to keep that in mind more often when I share pictures publicly. The message I want to send might seem crystal clear to me, but be interpreted entirely different depending on the viewers’ prior experience. Good thoughts!

  4. Baylor Basketball really did kick some butt last night. : P Sic’Em

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