Abandoned – Common Photo Themes


Ruins – the fallen structures of something created by a culture – have an unseen beauty.  On the surface, ruins are an eyesore; they are something that interrupts the view-shed.  Upon closer examination, the inner beauty starts to become evident.  Ruins, regardless of their age, reveal the trends of our culture at the time the building was created.  It’s ornamentation indicates the original purpose of the building.  All that peeling paint, collected dust and rusty pipes are just a patina that adds character.  So it’s only natural that photographers have been drawn to abandoned spaces in various states of ruin.  The results of a photo shoot at such a location can be quite impressive….

Unif L by David Van Bael

"Unif L" by David Van Bael

“Unif L” by David Van Bael

Even through the peeling paint and graffiti, you can see the touch of class that this room once contained.  Unif L was shot at the site of an abandoned university by David Van Bael.  This is the main entrance of the building, and the light is incredible.  David’s position introduces a nice vanishing point perspective, not only with the ceiling beams but with the edges of the room.  David speaks of the location as having been a dream for him.  I could only imagine happening upon such a beautifully ugly subject.

The Entrance by Maxime Bergeron

"The Entrance" by Maxime Bergeron

“The Entrance” by Maxime Bergeron

As if an abandoned old warehouse wasn’t interesting enough, Maxime Bergeron introduced an interesting dynamic to his photo, The Entrance, by using an ultra-wide angle lens and retaining the distortion.  In doing so, the opening appears more ominous, more gaping and the entire photo creates an uneasy feeling.  The broken windows, weedy soil and the faded sky (handled in post, I assume) makes this entrance even more unwelcoming.

What Has Become by Gary Heller

"What Has Become" by Gary Heller

“What Has Become” by Gary Heller

Props, like this deteriorating wheel chair,  are a great asset to any type of ruin photography.  When they look like they belong, such artifcatcs spark thoughts of sudden abandonment, which only raises the questions about what happened at the location.  Appropriately, Gary Heller chose something similar as the name for his photograph, What Has Become.

Tribune – Old Harness Racing Track by Noah Feldklipp

"Tribune - Old Harness Racing Track" by Noah Feldklipp

“Tribune – Old Harness Racing Track” by Noah Feldklipp

Noah Feldklipp edits his photos with a subtle, but untactful, softness and glow which creates a dream-like feel to his photographs.  With this photo, Tribune – Old Harness Racing Track, the effect is not only mesmerizing, it highlights the neglect of this space.  Interestingly, there are clues that these ruins have not been sitting for too long as many of the surfaces in this space seem to be in fairly good shape.  But the sight of those chairs is enough to pull you in.

Refuge – In A Previous Life by Mark Heath

"Refuge - In A Previous Life" by Mark Heath

“Refuge – In A Previous Life” by Mark Heath

A structure left unattended will eventually return to nature.  The structure in Refuge – In A Previous Lifea photo by Mark Heath, is clearly losing it’s battle with nature.  But isn’t that the appeal to the photographer?  There are a lot of angles in the shot, yet it’s still very apparent that the left wall is leaning inward.  I like how the weeds have started to climb out of windows and doors and how some have even tried to climb over the top of the structure.  The building is not long to stand.  I’m glad Mark was able to capture it in such a beautiful state before its form is no longer recognizable.

The practice of exploring abandoned buildings is called Urban Exploration and it comes with many risks.  We don’t recommend entering abandoned buildings without permission.  And we certainly don’t recommend exploring alone: Take a partner and let people know exactly where you’re going.  Such buildings can be quite unstable, so don’t put yourself at risk unnecessarily.


About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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