urbex

Photographer Interview: James Joyner

Among the urbex/abandoned community on Instagram, I try to look for photographers who do it well, and have a personal style that’s recognizable. James Joyner is one of my favorites, and we’ve collaborated in the past on each other’s work. Jimmy’s style has really grown into its own, and I love seeing the locations he finds on his adventures.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is James Joyner and I’m a radiological aide at a local hospital in Maryland, USA.

How did you get started in photography?

My parents got me my first “real” camera, a Nikon 35mm N2000, back when I was a junior in high school, where I first started really learning how to compose photos and work the controls. For my high school grad gift, I got myself my first DSLR, a Nikon D60, where I really started coming into my own and learning what I liked to photograph.

What do you like about your photography?

That’s a tough one… I guess if I were a third party looking at my photography, I’d say that I really liked the way I try to channel a scene’s darker side. I’ve always been a fan of darker styles of photography… I believe the shadows can add to a photo just as much as the light does (if not, more). In a sense, I like to work the lighting in a scene to enhance the darkness.

I’d also say that I really like that I shoot abandonment, but in the context of the surrounding landscape and scenery. I think there’s a deeper and a sadder story to tell about an abandoned house when you add elements such as the sky and the overgrowing grass around it.

Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

I get my inspiration for my style and ideas primarily from the music I listen to, films/shows I love, and from other artists whose work I follow on Instagram.

Films/shows that really inspire my work include ones like I Am Legend, The Road, War of the Worlds, The Walking Dead, and other post-apocalyptic pieces such as those. I have a huge obsession with that genre… Sometimes when I’m editing a photo I’ll think something like, “I want this house to look like a scene straight out of The Walking Dead. I want the viewers mind to race when looking at this house, thinking thoughts such as ‘what happened here? Is there anything lurking in those shadows? Is there something written in blood on the walls inside that house somewhere?’” I want to create those thoughts in people’s heads.

Your work focuses on on a lot of spooky situations and abandoned properties. What excites you about shooting in these situations?

The story behind why a place is abandoned. The unknown of what I’ll find upon investigation of the place. Getting that ONE shot that makes the entire shoot worth doing. Getting caught by either the angry owner/the police on a property for which I haven’t necessarily gotten permission to shoot. All things that are racing through my mind while on shoots.

Honestly that latter thought tends to occupy my mind a little more than I’d prefer… but that’s all part of the game. It makes getting that one beautiful shot all the more rewarding.

What kinds of themes do you like to explore with your work?

The major theme I like to explore is Life After Humans. The History channel did an entire series on what happens on a grander scale if people were to vanish tomorrow, and I like to channel that on a little bit more personal level with my work.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

I’m working on a project at the moment for a @pr0ject_uno story takeover on Instagram. They have been doing it with some amazing artists so far, and it’s an absolute honor that they thought of me for this. My theme is going to be rural abandonment. Make sure to keep an eye on their account and their story for the takeover!

As for shoots… that’s the part that’s so cool about shooting abandonment the way I do. New shoots present themselves every time I go out and randomly drive around or explore a new spot. It could be tomorrow that I find the coolest house I’ve ever come across.

There’s an abandoned middle school I plan on hitting soon very close by… I just got a brand new Sigma 20mm Art lens, so that will be my saving grace inside that place.

Check out more of James’s work on Instagram as @shuttermayfire


Until It’s Gone

Until It's Gone

When I scope out an abandoned building, I always run the risk of it being gone by the time I’m ready to photograph it.

It’s happened plenty of times. Luckily, this past winter, I had a chance to document an abandoned building before it was leveled just weeks later. Other times, I have not been so lucky. There are plenty of places that disappeared before I had a chance to photograph them.

So it is with people, too.

If you love someone, or are fond of someone, take the time to get a good photo in before they’re gone. Even if it’s uncomfortable or awkward.

A few recent passings are good reminders that I need to grab portraits of people I care about. You should do the same. You’ll be glad you did.


Photographer Interview: Olli Syrjäkari

As an urbex photographer, it’s natural for me to check out other abandoned building photographers. The problem is, most of what I find is HDR garbage.

That’s why I love the work of Olli Syrjäkari of Finland. His abandoned work keeps the shadows and mystery of the places he explores. When I first saw Olli’s work, I felt like I met a fellow traveler. It was great to learn more about his photography.

Who are you, where are you, and what do you do?

My name is Olli Syrjäkari and I live in Tampere, Finland. Pencil pusher by day, photographer by night.

How did you get started in photography?

I’m not sure when it started. Probably when I got my first smartphone with a decent camera. Three years back I left my hometown to find my real home. By that time I bought a small interchangeable-lens camera, and it was then that I got serious about photography. Most of my photos are taken with that 100-euro camera. I did eventually upgrade but I went with the philosophy that the camera quality doesn’t matter until you know how to compose and find the light.

What do you like about your photography?

I love how my photographs raise questions and emotions. You could say my motto is “emotion is everything”. Also I think it’s therapeutic that I get to relive those moments that are already gone. I tend to hate most of my earlier work. I think for me that’s essential in order to become better.

You dabble in abandoned photography, and I love your sense of mystery and exploration. You also have a great eye for light and shadow. Where do you get inspiration for your style/ideas?

Thank you. When I see great photography, it really inspires me to get to that level. It makes me grab the camera and get out of the house, do something great. In all that abandoned photography I do, with the shadows and the light, I love that contrast. How things can make me happy and sad at the same time.

I recently realized something. All those places I explore, urban decay, homes people left behind, they get certain emotions going on in my head. Like I mentioned – happy and sad, also yearning, wishful, at peace. I also mentioned I left my hometown where I lived almost three decades, and I wasn’t happy, just a walking corpse. In my new hometown I have felt rootless, alone, anxious, scared but also very happy and content, at peace and hopeful. Something those families have felt when they left their rural homes and dying smalltowns in search for a better life. Narcistically, I think I have been photographing myself.

What kinds of themes do you explore with your work?

Sorrow, hope, dark thoughts, rural exodus, abandonment. How shadows can exist while there is light present. How the shadows are eventually winning, light is always just temporary. It needs to be maintained while darkness is the default.

In my nature photography, it’s basically empowerment, conservation, how life finds a way. I love to mix these themes, nature and abandonments. How nature reclaims what we have left behind. What comes after us? How we are temporary here, the light. Nature and entropy are the shadows, but they are the good guys here. We are just visiting and we are very bad guests.

Any upcoming projects or shoots you’re working on?

I am having an exhibition next summer, in Tampere, Finland. It will be free of charge but I am hoping to sell some photos to cover the costs. I am also planning to sell prints and licenses to fund my future explorations and exhibitions. Besides that I’m planning to get more into portraiture and people.

See more of Olli’s work at @siderocks, check out his Flickr gallery, and follow along on Instagram.


Urbex Collaboration

To prep for 2016, I did something different on New Year’s Eve: I urbexed with other people.

Jamie and Seth are two of my local photo buddies. We haven’t done a ton together, but we know each others’ work from Facebook and Twitter, and did a Kelby photo walk two years back. Seth has been a good guy to talk to about some artistic goals I have this year, and Jamie is someone I’ve wanted to go exploring with for a long time.

So we picked a place and made it happen on a cold December morning. We had a lot of fun – especially with shooting portraits of each other.

Seth wrote up a little post about our adventure on his photo blog.

More collaboration and adventures – it’s what I hope to do in the new year. Most of my abandoned work is solo: I find something, I explore something. This time, it was fun to explore something with other photographers.