From an abstract perspective, photographs of abandoned places hold a lot of appeal. Compositions of light and shadow have always fascinated me. Light and dark intersected by fallen beams and vines or framed by ruined archways are visually interesting. High contrast and muted tones lend ambience to these forgotten landscapes. But are the images attractive? Not always, or not to me. I’m not fascinated by abandoned places.
Ruins do tell a story, yes, and as a child I crawled through my share of crumbling castles, hiked across old Roman aqueducts, visited the Oracle at Delphi and choked on the dust of every ruined site across the world that my father could find. But abandoned hospitals, factories, schoolhouses, mansions, hotels… These places fail to capture my interest. Rather, they make me feel sad. I don’t like to see neglect and I abhor disorder. Perhaps I see a water-stained wall or ballroom carpeted in grass and think of all the hours it would take to return the place to its former glory. And I just don’t have time for all that. 🙂
That being said, I recently became entranced by a collection of photographs on Tumblr. None of these photographs featured a half-naked man. Go figure. Instead, I saw video game environments, and that sparked my imagination. I saw the subways of Metro: Last Light, the abandoned buildings of Halo: Reach, the ruins of Ilos and Pragia in Mass Effect, the Deep Roads in Dragon Age: Origins, the sewers in Assassin’s Creed, and countless other pixelated locations. The photographs reminded me of why I like to play such games, but also simply captured me visually. Many of them were more than a simple recording of what had been before. They were studies of color and composition that I found compelling.
The photographer calls himself Five Alive and has a gallery and blog that chronicle his nomadic lifestyle. I’m going to share a couple of photos here and encourage you to visit the artist’s gallery to see the rest. Featured image for this post is Orange Light.
This is the photo that captured me, had me scrolling back through the other images for a second look. It’s the colors and the light. It looks like a rendered environment, but it’s not. Why that makes a difference for me, I cannot tell you. I guess we all have triggers! It immediately evoked memories of Metro: Last Light, which is a fantastic game, by the way.
This one, too. Haven’t you battled past this pipe a million times? I have, in Assassin Creed and various other worlds.
Fall Out 3. There are bottlecaps in the desk and got the safe open!
Teltin facility on Pragia (Mass Effect).
Finally, this last one doesn’t have to be anywhere in particular, I just like the composition. As many of these pictures show, with careful framing, even disorder can be refined, restrained, made beautiful.