by Samantha Hartman
As a twenty-something year old female, to have a hobby that involves trespassing in abandoned buildings to take pictures would probably appear strange to some. However, it has changed the way I look at things and turned into an adventurous outlet that brought into my life a group of extremely creative, like-minded individuals.
Risk versus reward is a phrase I have had to remind myself of quite a few times during my abandoned outings. I love the adrenaline rush of getting into a new place; somewhere I know I am not allowed but still want to go anyway… acres upon acres of tired steel or moss-grown rooms that turn into an urban playground. Some of them haven’t seen life in years and the walls are full of stories, if they are still standing, that is.
Mother nature really takes its toll on some of those structures, but in a way there is an eerie beauty to see an old hospital with a blanket of grass growing on the gurneys, where a patient laid some odd years ago. The calm and quiet in the air could be cut with a knife and it is always significantly colder inside, creating a mood only found in those tired old buildings. It takes a certain individual to find that relaxing, a place to unwind and collect your thoughts.
Maybe that is why I enjoy it. I could walk around for hours, just looking at the history and imagining who was there before. I’ve been to houses where it looked as though everyone went to work one day and just never came home, and factories that still had work jumpers and hard hats hanging up in lockers with paystubs all over the floor, charred at the edges from where the building had caught fire years before.
Some people think it is creepy, and more often than not there is a dead animal or squatter that will make me think they are right, but only for a second, as I get back to photographing the score of the World Series that was chalked up on the wall in 1958, and has remained untouched since.
It makes me sad, in a way, to see some of those buildings go, whether it is from demolition, fires, graffiti, scrappers, or weather. While I have some great pictures that I can look back at, the act of actually going there is gone. They are full of beautiful architecture and history, places I frequented so much I knew them like the back of my hand.
Growing up in the Rust Belt has given me such a variety of places to visit, from churches and hospitals, to hotels and banks, and everything in between. But at the end of the day, the risk has always been worth it. I still have all of my limbs, have never had to spend the night in jail, and found myself a group of explorers that became good friends.
Hiding in a pitch-black basement with three others while you wait until the footsteps upstairs stop, or handing your camera bag through a fence while you quickly squeeze through will really bring people together, in an odd way. Although it seems like a strange way to make memories, some of those places created experiences that I will keep with me for a long time.