Top critical review
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Really stunning photographs but sadly zero information about them
on 6 July 2013
This is a beautiful book with striking and stirring photographs of mostly institutional buildings (asylums, schools, factories) that have been abandoned. If I were rating it on the photographs alone, I'd give it 5 stars.However, as a book, it's badly let down by the lack of information and text.
There are only four pages of short text on four subjects: Introduction , Urban Exploration, Why We Do It, The Experience. Each of these is literally a single page.Given there is such limited text, it is a shame that even this is uninformative and badly written. It reads as if it were written by a pretentious 15 year old with a thesaurus. For example, from The Experience:
"As soon as we crossed the threshold, the atmosphere changed. The heightened sensory awareness afforded to us by the thrill of gaining entry enabled us to fully appreciate the powerful aromas that encompassed us."
If like me you are interested in this book because the images stir in you a curiosity about the history of these buildings, then you will be disappointed.
Each image is only captioned with the type of building and the broad location - Asylum, New Jersey; Coal Breaker, Pennsylvania. It doesn't tell you exactly where they are or even the actual name of the spooky house on the hill school, the creepy sanatorium or the faded theatre. There is zero information about the age of the buildings, their history or why they were abandoned. Even something as simple as the date, or rough date, they fell into disuse is omitted. It is literally just the building type and location; it's a real shame because I would imagine for some of these buildings, the images could have sparked a restoration campaign - if anyone knew where they were. A reader wanting to view the buildings, even from the exterior, has no idea where they are.
Separately, it is clear that in some images the photographers have added to what they found to create their image. An asylum corridor is scattered with brightly coloured (obviously new)play balls; an open filing cabinet drawer in an asylum covered in dust and rust has two clean spools of thread on the top. This leads the reader/viewer to question how many of the other images are truly genuine or tampered with. The same filing cabinet appears to have a plant growing out of it - was that how they found it? or added in like the thread spools? Because there is no text or explanations, we'll never know.
It's worth looking at the images; but frankly you could do that in the library in half an hour. A lost opportunity; it leaves the reader with a feeling of deflation as if being promised a trip to Disneyland but in fact getting a picture (albeit a very nice picture) of Mickey Mouse.