Rediscovering Our Forgotten Heritage - Photography by Matt Emmett

There is a thrill in exploring an environment that allows you to step into a previously unknown world and discover something first-hand, taking your time and noting the details as you go. Having a camera with me allows me to prolong that thrill long after the building is gone. It’s an often quoted cliché but there really is a strong sense of palpable history present in abandoned buildings, the items left behind like paperwork in a drawer or plaques or signs in an industrial plant, allow you a glimpse into the past. I consider experiencing these places to be a great privilege.

From the point of view of a photographer there is a total lack of distraction in the stillness of a derelict building; the sound and movement associated with people or workers has been removed, for me this makes them far more sensory than when they are occupied. Your mind can easily focus on what is around you and takes in so much more. The building’s voice is clear and a character and visual aesthetic emerges that was much harder to define than if it was a busy, populated environment. Capturing this character and stillness comes across well in the photos and is something people tell me they love about the images.

It has been put to me that photographing ruins and abandonment is beautifying something actually quite negative that impacts real people and society in general. I make no apologies for finding something positive, an uplifting or beautiful aspect to a situation that others may find distressing. Photographers didn’t cause the site to fail and fall into a derelict state and with my own work I don’t feel there’s a parallel with photographers who shoot among the ruins of a town like Detroit and the human tragedy unfolding there. The buildings I am interested in are uninhabited shells. I am interested purely in capturing the aesthetics, character and history of the building, showing the passage of time and the effects of nature on a structure that is no longer being maintained.

More images and up to date info on the locations I shoot at here: