How To Look at Overgrown Structures

How To Look at Overgrown Structures

By Noah Holder 


000015460004 by Noah Holder (2019)
000015460015 by Noah Holder (2019)







As light peaks through the top of each frame, the disintegrating 35mm film captures the essence of light caught amongst overgrown ferns. Figure 1 catches an abandoned home no bigger than a common kitchen. The house leans on visible wooden frames, the deep red arm of the porch pokes out suggesting the house is tired of standing upright. The presumably oak steps creep through the twisting limbs of well rooted weeds. The picture’s right third abandons patchy lawns for concrete, speaking to the urbanization of the area that exists beyond the photo. The guarded house, despite the tree that folds in two, covering what an architect would hope to be a front window, sits alone. Trapped in an era where the brick red building off in the background was most likely nothing but land peeling off into the horizon, the forgotten estate stands an omitted moment in time.

Untitled by Noah Holder (2019) (Figure 1)

What would be otherwise eroded frame—and home to the largest metropolitan society of termites— is revived by the life that wraps around it. The hedge nearly falling into Fig. 1’s left side is reaching to be captured in the camera’s blink. Overgrowth is simply the inevitable. In simpler terms, Nature will always grow through, bend around, and reach straight up beyond whatever lands on top of it. The wooden fence supported by wire grid once marked ownership; that everything amongst it belonged to someone and was meant to ward off those unwelcome. Overgrowth scoffs at the notion of property, simply waiting to reclaim all that was originally its own. 

Figure 2, slightly angled upward in technique, follows the growth of the ferns towards the sun. The foliage looks as if it can be peeled back revealing the vast Amazonian rainforest, or perhaps open up into the canopy of the Congo.

000015460015 by Noah Holder (2019) Figure 2

Foliage not only reclaims the abandoned but the lived-in heritage buildings of any city. Both photographs, void of street signs or instagram geo-tags could be taken anywhere. Fig. 2’s scaling effort exhales oxygen into the Westboro streets of downtown Ottawa; yet, like the air that floats beyond any imaginary city line, the vines creeping up the hidden brick home could be any house inside the close knit grids of Cabbagetown, or Bloordale. Overgrowth brings light to the tightest corners of city streets, demanding an eye to shed its own light upon a wall filled with green.

Both images ask for moments of breath, and meditation. Despite both the abandoned home, and the vine-filled corner being right in and around bustling city centres, overgrowth under the noses of our city’s are simply reminders to slow down; To inhale the fruits of its labour. To recognize nature where it should be, where it sneaks in, and where it reminds us it always was. 


Elkins, James.  How to Use Your Eyes.   Routledge, 2009,

Images in this online exhibit are the author’s own being used for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.