Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of urban exploring? Don’t photos of abandoned buildings, towns, and cities look exceptionally cool, in a hauntingly beautiful sort of way? The answers are nobody, and fuck yes.
Though, I’ll be honest, I may be somewhat biased; I’ve been dining out on photos I took whilst exploring an abandoned asylum over the summer for months – god bless Throwback Thursday. However, I’m not alone, we all love it, and you are all as bad as me. I mean, just search ‘abandoned’ or something similar on Instagram, there’s fucking squillions on there. All of it awesome. It’s almost as if it’s impossible to take a bad photo of abandonment. Unless it’s an abandoned puppy of course, that’s just not cool.
Anyway, whilst it might be exceedingly difficult to capture a bad snap of such haunting locations, some people are just plain better at it. In fact, some people were just clearly meant to do it. Photographer Christian Richter is one such person. Having been brought up in the German Democratic Republic/Communist East Germany (delete where applicable depending on your allegiances), when the Berlin wall came down he was 14, and he soon so the rush of people heading west, leaving once proud buildings to decay. Something that fascinated the young Richter.
‘Because so many people had left, everything began to fall into disrepair. That’s when I started visiting abandoned buildings, sometimes with friends and sometimes on my own,’ Richter said, speaking to the BBC. ‘Then much later, when a friend gave me a digital camera, I was able to capture the beauty of these old places.’
And capture the beauty of the old places he did, it’s a sombre kind of beauty, but beauty nevertheless; one that may extend into the photography, but one that stems very much from the locations that Richter has visited. Numerous, numerous locations – Richter says he’s visited over 1,000 buildings in the last 7 or 8 years.
‘They are very peaceful places because no-one ever goes there. The way they deteriorate, when nature starts to take over, reminds me that everything is transient. There’s a feeling that it is the end of time and you don’t find that kind of atmosphere anywhere else.’
‘The real beauty for me is discovering these places. The photos aren’t exactly secondary but they come alongside the discovery itself. I take the photo to give other people a sense of what it’s like.’
‘I think people like them for the same reasons I do – this beauty and sadness mixed up. I think people can identify with the fact that even if you have a wonderful, big house right now, at some point everything will decay. Even palaces and villas are transient.’
It seems it’s all very existential the life of an urban explorer. Regardless, have a gander at some stunning photography. Then get out there and do it yourself. Go get yourself trespassing. Explore those abandoned buildings. Think about the big things. Capture some beautiful imagery. Be as cool as Richter and me.
EDIT: Cultured Vultures in no way encourages, nor condones, the the incredibly cool crime of trespassing.