I don’t remember how we found this place. It was either a random stop-and-try deal, or a tip from a couple talkative policemen we met with a penchant for exploring on the DL. I knew zero going in, and I still know zero history of the place. I gathered it was a community center from the signage on the wall, and that’s about it.
From a photography perspective, I liked this place. It was empty, but it was quiet, relatively clean, and had a lot of interesting colors…something I had zero luck with in every other building I explored in this area.
From a human perspective, this was…very sad. The neighborhood is struggling, badly, from an epidemic of violent crime, poverty, and economic depression. Most of the buildings are abandoned. Children are sleeping on the sidewalk. This building, which doesn’t look like it’s been empty all that long, appears to have been a safe place for kids to gather and aspire for a better tomorrow. It’s terrible to think this was taken away from them, too.
That leftover feeling of safety and optimism is still present there, even in ruins.
This is my last set from out here. I explored other places, but didn’t get my camera out. It wasn’t worth the effort. Most of the abandonments out this way are more interesting from the outside, where the real character shows, as sad as that is. On the insides, everything is a bombed out mess. It’s ugly. It smells terrible. It’s boring. This was the only spot I truly found any connection with.
I was in a bad mood on this particular day. I wanted so badly to shoot a place on the other side of town where friends had the best time a few months prior. But, in between their trip and right before mine, a few idiots, desperate for a little attention on the internet, blew that location all the way up. It made the news. Naturally, that inspired every other little scumbag in the area to go ransack the place. The town/local police responded accordingly, as they should. Mess.
I gave it two tries: one very early, and one very late, after dark. Let’s just say…neither worked out. And if you’re curious why I don’t share location specifics, there’s your answer.
And no, this building wasn’t anywhere near as interesting as the one I wanted to shoot, but it did somewhat salvage the day. I’m pretty happy with the handful of shots I got here. It is what it is. It’s not the first time I struck out somewhere, it won’t be the last.
Oddly enough, every time I end up at a location like this, where I leave grateful for and hyper-aware of the privileges and advantages I have in life, it’s never planned. I think the healthy dose of reality is necessary, and important. I have the luxury of being annoyed I couldn’t get inside an abandoned building to explore it, for fun. That’s an absolutely ridiculous concept, especially in a place where people are going inside abandoned buildings to survive.
That’s it for this set, and for this city. It was both my introduction and my farewell. My next set is a little closer to home. ‘Til then.