Roman: It was 11 years ago when I found myself interested in abandoned buildings. I was desperately looking for a hobby or something to spend my free time on, and I made a list with things that I was interested in. History, writing, creativity and travelling were among those things. One day, I was driving in Germany with a friend, and I was sharing some of my thoughts with him regarding this process of what to spend free time on and the things I’m interested in, and he suggested I’d visit an abandoned stone factory close to where we were driving. The day after I went there with my camera to see what I’d encounter, and I absolutely loved it. I started doing research on the internet, and soon found that there was a small community with other people who were interested in this sort of photography and work. That’s where it took a lift off. I soon found more locations to visit, and since then I have never stopped exploring, photographing and writing.
Roman: Photographing abandoned places is a way for me to escape, and to indulge myself into many things that I like, such as history, architecture, creativity, adventure and silence. Next to that, abandoned places fascinate me because of all the unanswered questions and the mystery they hold. There is beauty in things that are forgotten, and taking a closer look can be an incredible way to get to learn more about the world around us, and how things change with time as history unfolds.
Roman: Thanks so much, I appreciate that! This photo is most likely the most special for me. However, it’s very hard to choose. I’ve seen so many breathtaking and beautiful places over the past years. This photo in particular comes to mind because I remember having a great time travelling around Italy with one of my dear friends. The building I photographed this room in, was an abandoned farm, and from the outside you couldn’t tell that it was hiding such a stunning room. I sat on the floor in the centre of this room, and enjoyed the beautiful artwork covering the walls and ceiling. It was completely silent in the room, thus I could thoroughly enjoy that special moment. The light fell in beautifully through the glass doors, creating light beams because it was so dusty inside.
Roman: I wouldn’t be able to pick a specific photo that was most challenging to shoot. To me, a photo can be challenging because there are objects standing in the way of the image I have in mind, or the light isn’t good, or the abandoned building is really hard to get into etc. Each place I visit is a challenge in itself, because I have to find it (they are often well hidden), then I have to find a way inside, and then I have to take the photos with the scenes that place has to offer me at that specific moment. I don’t touch or move anything in the place, so I have to work with what it offers me.
Roman: Yes, you could say that I feel connected. I feel like diving into the history of a community, a family, medical care, religion, etc. I see many objects that tell the story of that place, and the life that was once lived there. That makes me feel humbled, inspired, sometimes even sad or lonely.
Roman: I believe that we can learn that today, abandoned places offer a unique glimpse into the past. A source of reflection, perhaps, as they prompt us to think about the future. If an abandoned church, castle, farm, hospital, or anything else, that was once the most important haven in the community or family, can become a pile of ruins, what does that say about what we hold certain today? These are the traces of the past of many communities and families, and if we follow them, we can see where we all came from and perhaps where we’re going.
Roman: I rely on my feelings a lot, but I also do my research before I travel. I try to find out the history, the local culture, the best time to visit the place with optimal light, how to walk to get inside, etc. Next to that, I find it important that besides the history, the place has aesthetic value as well. I like an abandoned place that has objects inside, or has a painted wall (fresco), or anything like that. I’m not so much into ruins or bland concrete walls.
Roman: My main challenge would be to stay focussed. There are a lot of things that I like to do, and I often want to do them all at the same time. But I found out that that influences the quality of what I actually produce in a negative way, thus I have to stay focussed. I attempt to not work on more than 3 projects at the same time.
Roman: The place of photography in this chaotic world is huge. Photos can be shown in the news, capture a memory of a moment or something that otherwise might become forgotten, spark an emotion, and connect people with each other. Taking photos is and will always be very important work. It’s not just art, it’s much more. Photographers have the unique ability to create an everlasting moment and share it with the whole world via ‘a single touch’.
Roman: Photography can be anything that you want. It doesn’t need a label. For some it can be art, for some it can be their main profession, for others it can be a hobby, and some people just like to browse through a gallery for no reason. As soon as we start letting go of putting labels on anything, stop judging about what anyone does, feels or likes, the world will become such a happier place. To answer your question, no – I do not think that photography is a hobby exclusively for the elites. It is already reaching a very wide audience, and people might not even realise it. That print that you buy at IKEA to decorate your living room, has been photographed by an individual. That image you see on the news of a historical moment that happened on the other side of the world, was captured by an individual. I could go on with many more examples, but I’m sure you get the idea. We’re talking about people doing what they like, and sharing that with the world in whatever way they like. Let’s enjoy and appreciate that.
Roman: I believe that photography has already taken an active role in our society, and already is changing mindsets, paradigms and fighting ignorance. We just don’t realise that. It’s very easy to take a photo that you’re viewing for granted. As if it’s the most common thing that exists. But it’s not, it’s a profession, it’s someone’s passion, and someone really did their best to get the photo out there for whatever reason. We could do with a little bit more appreciation and recognition for the area of photography perhaps. Not that I want to complain about that at all! It’s simply in the context of this question and answer that in my opinion photography has already taken the role as described.
Roman: I would love to launch a project to travel the world, and visit areas of the world that might have an economic disbenefit or no access to photography, and inspire, teach, and work with people to make them fall in love with the area of photography. In addition, I would love for those people to become entrepreneurs and help them launch their own business as well, to make a sustainable living.
Roman: I think that photography in itself has caused a revolution in society. Because of photography, and the access we have to digital material nowadays, it has become much easier to share photos, look at photos, form opinions about them, write news, etc. Photography has become timeless and accessible for almost anyone worldwide. Next to that, how amazing is it that a person can transfer something that he has in mind to a physical or digital product. Photography is as if you are looking into someone’s mind and vision. That’s just awesome.
Roman: It feels very disappointing, frustrating at times, and as if your profession is not respected. It has to do with personal values I believe. Personally, if someone asks me if they can use an image for whatever purpose and have no budget, I would at least consider the request and appreciate the fact that someone asked me. I might say no, or yes. But just be polite and ask, it’s so simple. A baker doesn’t give away the bread he bakes for free, and everyone believes that that’s normal. Why would it not be normal to pay for a photograph made by a photographer? I might travel for days, spend 1000s of euros, and work on post processing for a week to create a photo. It feels horrible when somebody then just takes it, uses it and assumes that’s normal.
Roman: I find it very relevant that countries and authorities do enforce copyright laws. It is essential for us (photographers) to be protected and supported. If there is no copyright law, it feels like everyone is free to do whatever they want with our product, without the option of being penalised or enforced to provide a rightful payment to the photographer. It could cause artists to stop producing work or demotivate them, and that would be a shame.
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