• House Visits
  • Abandoned Homes of the Mid-West

    Bleached planks of wood, loosely shod stairs and rattling window frames.

    These are the features that I’ve been immersing myself in for the last few months.

    When I was first approached to produce a series of photographs based around the abandoned homes of Midwestern America I initially turned the offer down. This, after all, isn’t the kind of work that I usually do. The majority of the travelling jobs that I am wont to take on will usually whisk me away to glamorous metropolitan city, where I’ll have the opportunity of immersing myself in a vibrant culture and photographing a stunning (usually modern) home. These are the kinds of jobs that I made my name on – they appeal to my taste in lifestyle and they pay well.

    This was why I was distinctly surprised when I found myself wandering through the Shoshone National Forest in late-March, in search of an abandoned 19th Century fishing shack.

    I’d heard about this curious place from a drunk lorry driver in a dive bar the night before and it had sounded like just the kind of place that I had been charged with seeking out. ‘Dilapidated, sorrowful, forgotten,’ the man had slurred his words, letting them bleed together slowly, allowing them to roll around his mouth along with the whisky that he’d forgotten to drink.

    This was the first real character that I’d met during my stay in the Mid West. I’d flown out to Cody without any kind of real plan. My brief was to find abandoned homes, places that exhibited zero signs of habitation – forgotten places – as my would-be guide had said. Of course, simply try Googling ‘abandoned houses’ and you’ll find a tonne of great examples have already been discovered, part of my brief was to find shacks that had yet to be photographed – it was this challenge that attracted me to the job.

    The 6-hour time difference when I landed had significantly hampered the start to my trip.

    I had initially planned to get going straight away and start interviewing local people for some hints, but the resultant jet lag had pulled me into a slump that continued to plague me for 5 days. I had months to complete my assignment and my expenses were being paid for – so why not spend a few days readjusting my circadian rhythm and getting to know the local area?

    Cody is a city by name, but with a population of under 10,000, it has more of a small town feeling. Despite this small population, the city is still served by it’s own airport and with the Yellowstone National Park less than an hour’s drive away the streets are consistently busy with campers, hikers and tourists. Instead of diving straight into work, like I would usually do, I decided to slowly integrate myself into the community so I could discover the kind of abandoned homes that deserved to be a part of my new collection.

    That’s how I found myself in the Silver Dollar in Wyoming, plying an already drunk man with more whisky and that’s how I discovered a shack that would prove to be the centrepiece of the project. 

  • House Visits
  • Lost In Texture: Ceilings of Dreams

    During my Uni days, I spent a lot of time staring at ceilings.

    In York, there’s a huge variety of houses – from the stunningly ancient to the jarringly modern. Unfortunately, when you’re a down-and-out History student living on the most basic of Student Loans and Grants – you’ll find that the two ends of the spectrum are frustratingly out of reach.

    Back in the mid-noughties, York was a wonderful place to live – but a little behind in the Student Housing scene. The houses that my friends and I had the dubious pleasure of renting, were filled with furniture that hadn’t been changed since the 70s and felt like time portals back to another time.

    rainy dayDuring my second year of Uni, I remember a day I spent inside, on a rainy day, filling up a roll of film with shots of our crummy student house. It was a 3-bed terraced house, all narrow corridors, high ceilings and curious textural details. Something I loved about that house was the variety in textures. Experimenting with my new piece of equipment, I remember dropping some acid and losing myself in the lens and the feel of the place.

    I still have the collection of photographs that I took that day, it’s amazing what can be done with such minimal lighting and gear. Old carpets, touched by the streaks of light escaping the rain clouds from outside, come alive – drifting imperceptibly like sea anemone under the ocean.

    texturedSharp stalactites and stalagmites of smooth creamy ceiling, droop and drop, threatening to lose their meringue like consistency and drop right into my open mouth.

    Move into the bathroom and everything goes up a notch. The blue spiralled tiles that cover the walls in this small room, open and undulate. As my eyes begin to glaze over, I can feel my knees start to sag with the weight of the water. Its almost as if I’m down in the ocean with carpet-anemone, drifting and spiralling, my limbs glued to the floor with the sticky ceiling that’s been dripping on me for hours.

    psychdelic bathWhen I woke up, later that night, I remember seeing the curtain in the living room  shimmer with motion. My friends were returning from a night out. I’d slept through most of the evening, missed my dinner plans and somehow managed to fill a 32-reel of film up with photos of our crummy student flat.

    Impatient knocks on the door began to sound, they must have forgotten their keys. As I stumbled to my feet, I passed the wide mirror in the hall and did a small double-take. For just a second, I thought I saw a ghost. A demonic mud-creature. A man coated in gloss paint, bright white strings of goo joining dripping over a gaping maw of a mouth.

    I blinked and he was gone. There was just a reflection of myself, slightly dazed looking, with a trickle of blood oozing down from a cut in my forehead.

    psychedelic

  • House Visits
  • Staring At The Floor – School-Boy Memories

    When we think of childhood memories, it can be a knee-jerk reaction to fall back on a particular incident that was funny or tragic – something that would make for a good anecdote.

    Dig deep though, and the route of all memories is more in our senses than our minds. The hundreds of minute details that are logged into our brains, leave a patchwork of reactions that – if triggered – will make us a think of a certain time. I’m definitely no neuro-scientist, but I’m almost certain that’s how it works.

    I find, however, that my memories are less jogged by actions or words – I find that recollection of textures is what fires off my synapses to their fullest. This interest and fascination in textures has led me to focusing on Hi-Def photography of interiors and patterns.

    subbasement

    In the deep recesses of my mind, locked behind imaginary metallic doors that interlock in the shape of an X and make mechanical sounds when they open, lie my deepest memories. You never know when you’re going to be treated to a minor or major flashback.

    pine floorIn our everyday life, we tread lightly over a veritable minefield of sensations, sounds and simulacrums – each one an explosive of emotional power, lying in wait to provide us with a new revelation of a time once been.

    Spending so much time in other people’s homes, I often run the risk of triggering old texture based memories. I’m primed for nostalgia every time I enter someone’s house.

    The most recent flashback occurred to me whilst I was shooting an interior of a modern house.

    It was just a basic day’s work, getting some shoots for a Liverpool SEO agency.

    The place was bright and airy with scent of pine. The brightly coloured wood clad the walls and the ceiling, there were even bright beams supporting the open pine structure. Surrounded by all this pine, I began to find myself drifting in to a past memory.

    As I drew my camera out to start shooting, I noticed something.

    The floor, in the kitchen that I had just stepped into, looked like pine – I could swear it even smelt like it – but on close inspection it wasn’t pine at all.

    fox

    Kneeling down, I ran my fingers across its clean, smooth surface and laughed to myself. Of course, it was DIY kitchen laminate flooring. So well, in fact, was this floor disguised that – as I ran my finger across its surface – I felt a surge in my heart as long-buried memories fought their way to break free of my grey matter.

    I’m glad that I was alone in the house at this time, because the force of the memory recollection temporarily put my head in a spin. As the memory lit up long forgotten sections of my mind, I gritted my teeth and felt the pulse on my hands as I felt the glow of memory alight in me.

    mind_blast_by_vorixI was back in school – I’d just been shoved on to my knees, there was a pressure on the back of my head – firm and forceful. I heard a laugh, fear struck me cold. It was a callous chuckle, uncaring and unhappy, cutting me to the quick. As I braced myself for an impact, I opened my eyes and cried out.

    But I was back in the Modern house. Shaking, shivering in cold sweat – my damp face pressed against the DIY kitchen laminate flooring.

     …

  • House Visits
  • New York Apartments – Beautifully Decadent

    I always love to travel overseas for my work.

    The ritual of preparing for long distance flights is something that I truly cherish. Spending hundred of pounds on flight tickets makes me giddy with anticipation. Packing a small suitcase with the bare essentials (I usually keep my style simple yet elegant when I’m in NYC, slim-fitted jeans and plain t-shirts) and purchasing those tiny travel versions of all my must-have cosmetics.

    Of course, I always need to spare some space for my photography gear as well. In the early days, I used to over pack for my overseas excursions. Gripped with the fear that I would be without a certain lens or flash, I would ram as much as I could into my flight case and spend an entire week lugging the stuff around, to no avail.

    Now I’ve got some more experience under my belt, I’ve got far more confidence in my skills and prefer to challenge myself by taking less and less gear. For my last sojourn to the Big Apple, I settled on taking just two cameras: my Nikon D500 DSLR and my Sony Cybershot DSC-RX1R MKII Compact (for some quick snaps of the city).

     luxury-new-york-city-condo-apartments

    Walking through those iconic streets is always an honour, especially when I’ve got bags of time between jobs. I’d been called to NYC to take some pictures of a selection of gorgeous apartments. The client was a big real estate company who had spotted some of my work from the National Trust gigs that I’d done way back when.

    Luckily for me, I had an entire week to shoot just four studio apartments. All within walking distance of my hotel on 13th Street, I had ample time to wander between each apartment capturing a whole host of little moments unfurling on the streets.

    New York is a hectic place to capture. Business men and women pace frantically between their air-conditioned office blocks and their waiting cabs. Street sellers keep an eye our for patrolling cops. Hot dog sellers flaunt their wares, whilst tourists blunder hopelessly from sight to sight.

    To shoot in New York, is to become one with the people there – just another lost individual rushing to get to the finish line.