Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Exploring Abandoned Places

published in the South Shore Breaker - August 17, 2016
One of the reasons I like to take photographs is that I enjoy the challenge of capturing a moment in time. The emotion I felt when taking the image gets wrapped up in the process and becomes part of the image for me. Photographers know we have done our job well if other people can experience part of that emotion when they look at the image we created.

Sometimes the subject matter can convey emotion without much help from the photographer.

Shortly after I moved to Nova Scotia, I stumbled across a blog written by a photographer who specialized in documenting abandoned buildings. She traveled the backroads of Nova Scotia and captured many of the dilapidated structures she encountered. I was intrigued and mesmerized by those haunting photos.

one of the many forgotten homes in rural Nova Scotia
It turns out that many photographers are enthralled with capturing this type of image. There is a page on facebook where people upload photos of abandoned structures from around the province.

Some people think it
s okay to venture onto properties even if there are signs that say no trespassing. I take real issue with this kind of attitude. Why do some people think they are entitled to go anywhere and do anything they want? It is my belief that people and properties deserve respect. Sometimes there are people who do not want their photo taken. Its a photographers job to respect that. Sometimes abandoned properties are posted with signs to keep out. Photographers should respect that as well. My personal rules about taking pictures of abandoned places are simple. No trespassing if the property says no trespassing. No defacing or damaging property. No removal of items. Everything should be left as is, where is. Your photos are your only trophies.

I can tell people what I think, but that doesnt mean they share my opinion. Many, many years ago my five year old son informed me "Youre not the boss of me!". He was mistaken, but he was the only one I was ever the boss of unless you can count my dogs and they test that theory fairly frequently. 
My formerly mentioned five year old son is now 29, and he is always willing to model for me when he visits us from the big city of Toronto. A few years ago, I photographed him in front of an abandoned mill that was just a short drive from where we lived. Shortly after that, my husband met the owner of that mill and arrangements were made for me to have a personal tour. The owner allowed me access to the building and told me many stories about the history of the mill, the mill workers, and the local town. It was all fascinating and I was able to spend a couple of hours with my tripod and camera documenting all the interesting details.
the owner of an abandoned mill gave me a tour
Although I have a rule about no defacing of properties, I do enjoy photographing locations where graffiti artists have spent some time. Those properties are a photographers dream. I heard about one location several years ago, and during my sons visit in May I finally got my chance to photograph an old satellite station. I was trying to capture him in a pose that had a lonely feeling.
abandoned places can convey a melancholy feeling
As I mentioned, many photographers enjoy exploring abandoned sites. Friends took us on a tour along the Minas Basin and we stopped at a church that had been falling down for years. I was glad to have someone with me, as it was in rough shape and could be quite dangerous. It was sad to see nature taking over a place that would have very special memories to many families. Births, marriages, and deaths would have all been shared by the community. Seeing the church is such a state reinforced the sense of impermanence of life.
it has been years since a congregation gathered here
There is something melancholy about abandoned places. Sometimes even the furniture remains. Prints on the walls, toys discarded on the floor, peeling wallpaper. You can imagine all kinds of stories when peering through the windows. I am always filled with a quiet kind of sadness when I see buildings that no longer have someone to care for them. To me, it's like they are living things that are waiting for someone to come along and put some life back into them by filling them up with love again, and something good to focus on.

1 comment:

  1. As you know Sara, I share your love of abandoned buildings. I visited that same church but when I was there the ceiling was curving downward and the front wall was leaning inward. I fear by now it's fallen in.

    Would love to visit that satellite station. That photo of your son is wonderful.

    There is some lovely grafitti near the shore of York ReDoubt but the are is also signed not to enter ... but I went in anyway and was glad I did.

    The photo inside the mill tells a story.


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