Library of Inspiration

Beauty in the Breakdown

Reginald Van de Velde brings you globetrotting in an entirely new dimension. We've all seen the typical travel shots: an iconic shot of the Eiffel tower, the sand dunes of the Sahara and the warm Bahamas beaches, but Reginald is a traveler with far more sentimental goals. He seeks to remember what the world has forgotten – places, stories and memories that were once held dearly but have now regressed or have chosen to be forsaken.

Traversing through most of Europe and parts of Japan, he finds solitude in the deserted. “It’s an escape from a chaotic world, a place without stress from jobs, traffic and people. These places have a certain sense of peacefulness to them. When you enter it’s as if you're in a different time and space.”

The official term for this genre of photography is “Urban Exploration”, and Reginald was surprised to learn that he was not the only one with a curiosity for the forgotten. After exploring an abandoned castle in his hometown at an early age, he did some research and found that there was a large community dedicated to this kind of photography. He was hooked.

Now to the obvious question: How does one go about discovering these places? Reginald says his process usually begins with research, pouring over newspapers or searching the web using keywords like “neglect” or “forsaken”. There’s also the occasional randomness as he stumbles upon a hidden gem when he least expects it. “As an urban explorer you always have a sixth sense for these kinds of things, you don’t actively look for them, but when you spot abandoned places you can feel if it is right.”

“One time in Brugge, I went through the wrong gate and found myself in an overgrown garden that led me to find this huge abandoned monastery - an amazing discovery. I have gone back many times since.”

Reginald’s work features an array of sites, including abandoned factories and ships, but his subjects follow no patterns. The places that really resonate with him are the ones where a piece of personal history is left behind - homes and castles where dark truths come to light in the form of letters, pictures and x-ray scans. Each place leaves a strong impression and holds a place in his heart, for better or worse.

He recounts a tale of a woman sentenced to jail, leaving her house untouched for 30 years – the opened drawers revealed all of her possessions as she had left them. Whilst the details of her story are dark, Reginald believes that there is still true beauty in the untouched scene.

The places he visits often challenge his technical abilities to capture the scene with the mood it exudes. His Nikon D800 is placed firmly on a stable tripod and the dark scenes make long exposure photography the key to his craft.

The rest of it is down to composition which can take up to 10 minutes to frame, making sure there is balance in the shot without disturbing the object’s original placement. Along with his photography gear, his essentials include ropes and foldable ladders to scale the wall of complexes.

One of the many images that will leave one especially awestruck was captured in Balkan, Southeast Europe. It features a communist relic despised by the town’s people, describing it as a “black page in their book of history”. Once used as a meeting point to spread communist propaganda, the monument was looted and left to rot after the fall of the Berlin wall.

Reginald describes his journey there as “trekking through a white hell with no direction”. What drives him is the desire to confront the world with facts. In the final photo you can see the inside of the relic covered entirely in snow, looking angelic and evil all at once. This is his gift: he brings truth and charm to the forgotten.

“When you walk to work or when you go to a friend’s house, you sometimes see an abandoned place. You might pass it 20 times, but you would never ask yourself what's behind those doors. I ask myself that. I want to show the world the beauty hidden behind the closed doors.”

The places he visits often challenge his technical abilities to capture the scene with the mood it exudes. His Nikon D800 is placed firmly on a stable tripod and the dark scenes make long exposure photography the key to his craft.

The rest of it is down to composition which can take up to 10 minutes to frame, making sure there is balance in the shot without disturbing the object’s original placement. Along with his photography gear, his essentials include ropes and foldable ladders to scale the wall of complexes.

One of the many images that will leave one especially awestruck was captured in Balkan, Southeast Europe. It features a communist relic despised by the town’s people, describing it as a “black page in their book of history”. Once used as a meeting point to spread communist propaganda, the monument was looted and left to rot after the fall of the Berlin wall.

Reginald describes his journey there as “trekking through a white hell with no direction”. What drives him is the desire to confront the world with facts. In the final photo you can see the inside of the relic covered entirely in snow, looking angelic and evil all at once. This is his gift: he brings truth and charm to the forgotten.

“When you walk to work or when you go to a friend’s house, you sometimes see an abandoned place. You might pass it 20 times, but you would never ask yourself what's behind those doors. I ask myself that. I want to show the world the beauty hidden behind the closed doors.”