An unlucky few may happen to glimpse the fabled Dragon House out on the rolling prairies of Saskatchewan. Its unearthly glow can be seen for miles across the flatlands, providing false hope of succor for the tired and unwary traveler. Most will steer clear of the sight, knowing not quite why, save only for the remembrance of grim stories told by the Métis overheard in their youth echoing in their heads.
We were almost done going through this defunct hospital in Detroit when we found the operating rooms. In total darkness, overhead lamps leered from the ceiling, while rusting cabinets lined the walls. An already successful exploration had gotten that much better.
Shooting by flashlight isn’t ideal, and of all the angles and takes I tried this is really the only one that looks halfway decent. Hopefully, it conveys a bit of the sense of place.
Out on the prairie while the winds shake the grasses and the clouds slide slowly across the horizon I found myself frequently just stopping to let it all happen around me. I could have spent days here and never been bored a moment but sadly we were forced to leave by the pressures of time, exhaustion, and anticipation of other places to see. One day I will return to this place, and watch the sun set as the wind whispers secrets through the empty windows.
I feel closest to God after he’s left the building.
We were lucky enough to make our way into this church as a shaft of morning light was traversing the altar.
Perhaps one God has left, but Apollo’s eye still finds its way in every morning.
So often we spend our time wondering why, but at some sleep deprived moment the world magically transforms itself and you stop asking why and simply accept that it is as it is, and that the why is unimportant. Like when you walk into an abandoned building and find a room full of antlers and skulls.
It seems that an abandoned church, in a city which is the epitome of fin de siecle American pessimism, would be a natural setting for some soul-searching and account taking. The past few weeks have seen me travel to Detroit and Saskatchewan in pursuit of the next Great Shot (its Greatness, however, usually being aspirational, and rarely actual) and left me more exhausted than I can ever recall being, and with more photos to process than I’ve ever had at one time. The question that seeps into a mind tired and numbed by travel and lack of sleep is “why am I doing this?”
Urbex photography is a bit dodgy when considered as an art form. Consider that many of its practitioners take pictures merely to document the fact that they’ve been someplace. Certainly it can be a touch formulaic. And what is it saying? The derogatory term “ruinporn” gets hung on it precisely because so much of it says little besides “look how awesome this abandoned shit looks!” The challenge for any artist is to have something, be it their own emotional voice, a social statement, or a personal aesthetic shine through their work. A great and well known photographer, Matthew Christopher, has a very noble conservationist stance on the buildings and places he shoots. Though I respect that, I’ve never been able to bemoan the process of decay that makes what I do possible. So what, then?
Unfortunately, I have no neat and ready answers here and now. I have progressed to the point where I can at least say that my shots do not totally suck. But what will they ever be besides (hopefully) pretty pictures? What I do know is that I love photography, and urbex photography particularly. My answer right now seems to be to keep working on sharpening my voice, and hoping that it comes through.
Oh, and yes! A photograph: pulpit in aforementioned church.