An elegant state of decay
A Dutch photographer travels across the globe to capture deteriorating treasures
Browsing the internet one fateful October night six years ago, Dutch photographer Daan Oude Elferink came across an old, abandoned fortress in a state of considerable disrepair. Determined to see the haunting structure in person, Elferink tracked it down to Belgium, got in his car, and drove.
Italy | The Butterfly Effect | (Daan Oude Elferink)
After jumping the fence, Elferink was greeted by an outdoor staircase leading to a beautifully decrepit, peeling edifice. "It was love at first sight," he says. He started snapping away.
Since then, Elferink has published two photography books and now exclusively shoots these formerly magnificent mansions as they deteriorate, freezing the process at various stages of decay. The resulting images evoke a sense of lost grandeur, like something out of Great Expectations.
Italy | Hidden Treasures | (Daan Oude Elferink)
Belgium | Tunes of Decay | (Daan Oude Elferink)
Elferink's undertaking is no easy feat considering it's both illegal and treacherous to enter many of these ghostly lots. The 37-year-old photographer has been chased by dogs, junkies, and robbers, stared down by police gun barrels, and victimized by unreliable, rickety floors.
Germany | Melting Memories | (Daan Oude Elferink)
Germany | Explosion of Light | (Daan Oude Elferink)
Often, finding the locations can be just as daunting as shooting them. To scope out potential sites, Elkerink relies on a mix of Google Earth, Street View, and tips from friends and acquaintances. The photographer then embarks on a considerable journey — traveling from his home in Holland to countries like Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Australia, and more — to capture that which most would overlook.
Italy | Treasures | (Daan Oude Elferink)
Belgium | Forces of Nature | (Daan Oude Elferink)
Because the buildings are completely deserted and without electricity, Elferink relies solely upon natural light, using long double and triple exposures to shoot his decaying hulks. One of his favorite images, "Heavenly Light," demanded three separate journeys to Poland to achieve the lighting he wanted.
Poland | Heavenly Light | (Daan Oude Elferink)
Incredibly, these surreal scenes are photographed just as they are; Elferink doesn't stage or manipulate them in any way. "In my opinion," he says, "breaking a spider web [is] already vandalism." There's meaning in capturing the chaotic decay exactly as it exists. "It tells a story," he says.
Italy | Nightmares | (Daan Oude Elferink)
Belgium | Take a Bath | (Daan Oude Elferink)
Germany | Downstairs | (Daan Oude Elferink)