One of my favorite things to photograph are abandoned things. Buildings, houses, roads, hospitals, towns, you name it! There is something hauntingly beautiful about a place that was once used on a daily basis, then left from one day to the next. It’s like a time capsule, slowly rotting away, taking the memories of the place with it. Fantastic.
While photographing buildings and houses from the outside is quite easy, the best pictures usually come once you venture into the complex. This always has its risks, which can be as obvious as a security guard still keeping watch over the place, or as illusive as some wooden floor that has rot to the point that it could give way if you stand on it.
The first rule is to always be aware of your surroundings.
Rule number 2? Don’t take your wife to abandoned hospitals in Mexico. She won’t be happy…trust me.
I had always admired the abandoned hospital in Manzanillo, Mexico. It had been deemed unstable after an earthquake in 1995 cracked many of its walls. For years there was a guard at the front, and I was too young to brave it out and try and sneak past him. Last year though, I got my chance when I was visiting Manzanillo for 3 weeks. No one was guarding it and it seemed like I’d have the place all to myself!
Of course, I had never really thought that besides serving as a subject to photograph, it might serve other purposes for other people; like the skater kids we found hanging outside, or the homeless man we did not see, but could definitely smell in one of the rooms. The air was thick as well, with the scent of decaying wood and garbage. Still, the inside was as amazing as I had imagined when I was a kid. Old surgery rooms still held signs of where instruments where to be kept, the skeleton of the elevator shafts impressed on each of the floors we visited.
All in all, we stayed there for around 2 or 3 hours. I’d have stayed longer if I could have, to take advantage of the sun going down and use the light to my advantage, but I broke rule number 2, and was forced to leave lol
One day, I hope to photograph Chernobyl. It’s probably been done a thousand times over by now, but the idea of an entire population vanishing from a city in one day, leaving everything behind, is enough for me to want to go. I enjoy abandoned places. They’re very peaceful, but somehow you are always on edge. It’s a weird feeling I suppose. When I arrive in Ottawa, I’d like to look for a couple of places to practice this fun style of photography. Anyone interested is welcome to tag along! I hear there is strength in numbers when it comes to ghosts that haunt places like this…