Orphans of Time on Kickstarter
Rebecca Bathory is one of the most know Fine Art Photographers of our time. Her dark images of dacaying buildings are mesmerizing. Check out the Kickstarter campain for her third book “Orphans of Time”. We had the chance to talk about her work.
How long did it take to capture the material for this project?
I have been photographing in abandoned building for 5 years now, it pretty much consumes everything I do, if I’m not planning trips, Im shooting in locations or editing the photos and then sharing them in various ways
500 locations in 5 years means one location in about every three or four days. That sounds like a hell of planning and organizing! How did you manage that?
I’ve been un so many road trips now I have lost count, the aim on a road trip is to visit as many locations on a map as we physically can fit it. For example, a 3 day trip to Belgium, we will have around 20 locations pinned on a map and will wake up at 5am to get first light and shoot till the sun goes down. Road trips take a lot of planning, mainly researching locations, plotting them on a map, finding the best order and route and then booking transport and hotels, but we travel together and often split the work between us
Shooting in places you have never been before means no planning of images at all. How much time do you need to get a picture to look the way you want?
This isn’t really correct, it takes so much planning, we look at places on the internet so we have an idea of what is in each location, the idea is to try and think in your mind how you will make your photo different to everyone else’s. Sometime you will go into a location and just explore to fond new thing, its exciting just creating photos as you go as things get moved around, locations become destroyed so you are capturing it as it is in that moment, which is kid of special as it freezes that moment in time forever.
Let’s stay on the „no planning“-thing, it leads to a kind of an adventurous workday I would imagine. I’m sure you experienced a lot and you will never run out of exciting stories to tell when you have a beer with friends…
I have so many tales to tell, I’ve been detained by Russian military for 16 hours, been at gunpoint on my knees in an abandoned vet school in Belgium, fallen through a floor board, stood above clouds on a creaky abandoned tower on top of a mountain. I have so many stories I could write a book just from those tales.
Most of the times it won’t be so easy to go back to a spot on the other side of the globe and repeat a shot. Do you walk in, scan the place an take 10 good shots and that’s it or do you get 500 of them to be sure you got everything you could have from the place?
I used to take a lot of shots when exploring, but with time I have realized that the best shots are ones you plan, I research the location before hand, know where I want to take a photo and when there I will perfect the photo, it maybe take up to half an hour or even longer, but I will only take one shot, once I have it, there’s no need to take loads of shots, when I have thought so hard about getting ‘The shot’ Some locations are more personal and have lots of items, so I will take more shots, which are more story telling.
Do you want more than simply documenting the status quo of abandoned buildings?
I feel proud I am capturing a piece of history as it stands, especially places like Chernobyl and fukushima as my photos will actually act ad historical records of those huge events for future generations. I like to think that my photos are artworks, I don’t just document these places with hundreds of photos but carefully think about creating beautiful photos that will strike a chord emotionaly with the viewer
Do you tell the stories of the places in your book also or will there be only plain pictures?
There will be an introduction at the start, but I want the pages to be filled with photos not text, they say a photo is worth a thousand words and I want the viewer to create their own stories in their heads from the places they see inside the pages.
The smoke flares you hold in the video, is it just for the video or did you create a more mysterious atmosphere for your pictures with it?
Yeah I like to create mysterious atmosphere in my photos and adding smoke is something I like to do in my photos, to add drama
Do you miss the glamorous fashion shooting times you left behind for shooting decaying walls and rotten roofs?
I don’t miss fashion photography at all, I was working for boring clients in studio. Now my life is full of adventure and I take photos all over the world in exciting locations, I wouldn’t swap it for the world.
Did you get permission to enter all the buildings you shot on your trip?
I get permission maybe 5% of the time, it’s hard to get go-ahead when these places are dangerous and people aren’t really meant to be inside. So instead we just sneak inside without being noticed, take our photos, we don’t damage the places, or take anything and then just leave as if we had never been there.
You shoot medium format to capture the maximum in detail. How did you get to Mamiya?
I shoot with a Mamiya Leaf Credo 80, as my work is printed very big for client as limited edition prints. I once had my work printed the size of a wall, so its important for quality to not be destroyed at this size. It’s important to capture all the detail so when it is this large. It has great dynamic range which makes my life easier in post production
How much time do you spend in post?
Not a lot really, my camera has such a good dynamic range, that I just need to adjust the shadows and highlights. I’ll get rid of things like litter or graffiti and add some colour grading, but that’s about it really, I try to capture everything perfectly in camera.
You are publishing the Orphans Of Time by yourself, trying to get it funded via kickstarted right now. Why no regular publisher?
I’ve published two books previously using a publisher Soviet Ghosts and Fukushima. This one is 5 years worth of photos and it is very close to my heart. I wanted to control every part of the process myself, make my own decisions about how it will look and choose who I want to distribute it to. It is a labor of love and it would mean everything for this book to become a reality
What’s next? More abandoned buildings? Or a completely new path?
I wont be taking photos of abandoned buildings any more, this book is a conclusion of this work. I think there is only so many abandoned buildings you can photography before they eventually become quite samey and people get bored. I love the places I have seen and captured. But now It is time to do something different. I have an exciting new project I will be starting in 2018, it is keeping with my style of photography, finding beauty in darkness but it is playing with a more storytelling element. This year I am concluding all previous projects and paving the way for this new series.