Somewhere while sailing through the islands near New Celdonia, we came across this beautiful ruined prison in the forest, long sinced abandoned except for the ghosts of incarcerated souls. It was a French colonial prison. Why is it places of horror and suffering look beautiful when they are dead and gone to ruin?
Photographing decaying buildings just before they are demolished is not an easy thing. It’s got to be safe. It’s got to be apparently open. The real question is why. Why is there a whole genre of photography called Urbex (urban exploration) that has produced some of the most haunting images of buildings in decay, all over the world?
There is nothing like being inside an old building slated for demolition. The remnants of the past are most visible and open to display. You are witnessing the last breaths of a once meaningful edifice that no longer meets the utilitarian and capitalistic ethos that permits life in our society. You are present in a space that contains the apocalyptic insignia of abandonment : broken chairs, graffiti, dead files, overgrown greenery. In countries older than ours, real history is to be found in the buildings of the past.
Some abandoned buildings are like time capsules. Well, as close as we get to passing back through time. While the great ruins of the world are pretty darn great (think Angkor Wat), a smaller ruined school can be equally haunting, and perhaps even more so, due to its intimacy with our own recent past.