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The Painted Tombs of Swift: Fort Worth Stockyards—2016

 

In the spring of 2016, I was hired to record the Swift Meat Packing campus for preservation records. In a career spanning four decades, nothing could have prepared for the wonderment I would find.

 

It was as if back to the beginning of my career—forty years ago in Egypt—when I began photographing ancient sites, or in southern Mexico along the Usumacinta River to document unrestored jungle areas of Yaxchilan and Bonampak—ancient Mayan sites left to the forces of nature.

 

Eight abandoned dark-red brick buildings stood crumbling on a twenty-two acre area at the end of Exchange Avenue at the Fort Worth Stock Yards. Built in 1902 and abandoned in 1971, these substantial buidlings were headquarters for the Swift Meat Packing Plant, important to the success of Fort Worth as a city.

 

Somewhere along the way, these shells became a palette for graffiti artists, and most surfaces inside and outside were covered with brightly colored spray-painted designs and words. The empty painted spaces were reminiscent of painted tombs where spirits of the dead could peacefully reside, like the brightly painted New Kingdom tombs on the West Bank across the Nile River from Luxor Egypt.

 

The shifting equilibrium between nature and man was evident as the buildings collapsed and disintegrated. Luxuriant, wild green flora was triumphant and consuming—burying a grotesque past.

 

Not long after I made these photographs in the summer of 2016, all but two of the buildings were demolished due to failure of the existing structure. One of the buildings will be restored as a Fort Worth landmark.

CAROLYN BROWN PHOTOGRAPHER
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