Forgotten Places

Urban Exploration Photography (urbex) is the art of discovering, exploring, and shooting old and abandoned buildings/locations. It’s artistically rewarding but legally ambiguous and potentially dangerous. Growing up in war-ravaged Lebanon, I have witnessed the phenomenon of once vibrant buildings turned into rubble or neglected structures sunk in a hopeless state of disrepair on a wide scale. The first time I saw dilapidated structures in the US, hints of nostalgia and a fascination with the desolation that accompanies abandoned architecture ignited my desire to seek out and photograph such places. Just like well-preserved monuments, lost or abandoned structures help us understand the deep stories of our urban landscape with the passage of time. Each abandoned place is unique and has its own special charm and story that can be pieced together from hints of everyday life left behind. Often times, it seems that in abandonment, the outline of once vivid dreams can be identified more clearly than it would have been during the apex of the structure's lifetime. The images here range from old houses, barns, and ranches, to derelict hotels, schools, and factories, to former prisons, stadiums, zoos, to empty villas and ghost towns. They were all captured without leaving a mark or altering the premises in any way. Some urbex adventures involved trespassing, such as with the former mining town of Gilman in Colorado, which is off limits to the public. Although I was there with my partner, it was one of the loneliest experiences I have had while photographing an abandoned location. Except for the sound of a light rain, broken glass underfoot, and the occasional animal appearing seemingly out of nowhere, there was only a heavy, expectant silence. Visiting the Linda Vista Community Hospital in Los Angeles, which had become a filming location and hotspot for paranormal investigators since its closure, was as vivid an example of abandonment and past human activity as could be. Within each of the hallways and slowly decaying rooms of the eerie six-story building, were unmistakable echoes of the hospital’s functional history, the patients and doctors who experienced so much there, and hints at the many powerful stories that once percolated throughout these empty, silent spaces. There is always a sense of mystery of what causes a place, once full of life, to become dark and vacant. The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, which is now a museum, lacks the thrill of urbex but speaks of the past in its own way. I was touched by the cracks and rust in the prison cells. Walls took on the look of abstract paintings as multiple layers of paint, which were unevenly peeling away, unveiled a complex, decaying pattern of color and texture. Beauty can reside anywhere, not just in bright and shiny things. I invite the viewer to feel the sense of presence through abandonment, to reflect on the now dead dreams that shaped the spaces, and appreciate the unique, doleful beauty that emerges in the disorder of decay.