I admit it, I have a fascination with derelict buildings, decaying cars and industrial detritus. And I’m not alone. Most of my fellow nature and outdoor photographers are equally fascinated by abandoned artifacts of the industrial age. Maybe it’s the haunting stories, the recognition of our fragility in nature or simply the graphic visuals that attract us. Whatever the reason, mention a dilapidated farm house in a field or a rusty car in the woods and photographers will flock to shoot it. Below are a few tips I’ve come up with to help you make more interesting images of the derelict and the decaying.
Whenever possible get permission to photograph that apparently abandoned industrial site or building. It may look abandoned, but chances are somebody still owns it and nothing will put a damper on your day more than getting slapped with a trespassing charge. Knowing that you have permission also eases your stress level on getting caught and frees you up to be more creative. As well, learning in advance of hazards such as old wells or coils of wire makes for a safer shoot. For abandoned farm buildings I ask neighbouring farms if they know the owners. More often than not they do and will simply call up the owner for permission on your behalf. For mines, factories and plants, the municipal government typically knows the owners or an historical society in charge of the place. A little Internet research will often get you the name of a contact that can arrange to let you into the facility. The effort is always worth it and often gives you even more leads for future shoots.
To read more of Darwin’s “The Art in the Abandoned” please pick up the Spring/Summer 2015 issue of OPC, or subscribe and never miss an issue.