Gone – behind the scenes
At the beginning of the Gone series, there was my curiosity. Once upon the time, I had four unexpected days off so I decided to go hiking. I started off a trip to the Slovak paradise mountains. As I had read an article about an abandoned spa in Korytnica shortly before, I decided to make a stop there and see it on my own. I was not looking for anything special at this particular place and time, there was just time for roving around.
What I saw in Korytnica was completely out of my expectations. A beautiful place, once full of life, just quietly stood abandoned in front of my eyes. I went into the spa houses and saw the disorder everywhere around. It was a mix of beauty, nostalgia, and sadness.
The spa kicked me off for another exploration trips – always with the camera on me – I realized, there are far more abandoned objects around. One of the most interesting places was the abandoned nickel smelter in Sereď, a small city about 60km away from Bratislava. In spite of having already visited several abandoned places before enjoying the time spent there in most cases, as I firstly arrived to this place, I was deeply scared.
In front of my eyes layed a huge, empty industrial temple. I felt something bad about this place. The cracked concrete ceiling looked as if it had waited ages just for my visit in order to disintegrate and fall down on my head. Back and forth, a pigeon interrupted the threatening silence. But what the heart scorns, the brain embraces. Somehow, I overwhelmed my fear and continued my first exploration trip. And finally, I returned several times over there, either alone, or accompanied by the others.
I had been publishing the pictures from the abandoned places for certain time, when I got a message one day from a lady, who liked them. Martina told me, that in Brno, right in the city center, there is a huge abandoned wool-processing factory, formerly called Vlněna. She offered to manage the visit for us. I gladly agreed.
We met in Brno for the first time at the end of September, accompanied by Michal as well. At the entry point, it turned out, it was Martina’s birthday. So we went on for a strange kind of an abandoned birthday party. It was rather nice, but dangerous as well. On certain floors, we had to walk along the walls only, as the wooden timbers got rotten by the water coming from the holes in the roof. But we managed to return safe and sound to our homes.
The time went on and I was still searching for some unexplored abandoned places. When I was heading for some hiking, I stopped in an abandoned quarry. It was a bit different to the places I had seen before. Two industrial towers with a couple of buildings, still full of various stone-related technology equipment. To be more precise, the rest of them…
I could only guess what the particular machines did during their mechanical life. However, their abandoned presence multiplied by their sizes evoked deep respect.
However, the most interesting trips were the ones that led to the former main hospital in Bratislava – my home city. It took me about one year to discover how to get inside – through a steel grid with one segment missing, leading through a flooded, stinking underground near to the main entrance hall. I used to go alone there in most cases, so I was able to walk through the empty long corridors, while listening to the echoes of my own footsteps. At that moment I was imagining all the people who, years ago, made the place alive with their happy or sad fates.
The adrenaline was intense, my mind went at full throttle. I was not far from some crazy virtual stories, like a doctor with a grin on his face, giving his patient the last cure for the open window (The Last Aid). Or a desperate doctor (evidently the same one) looking into the strong light coming from a half-opened door with the scribble on it saying “NO TIX3” (NO EXIT). But there were also other doctor-related photography ideas – after all, I had bought the medical suit right for this purposes.
There were also some real, rather vivid stories that will be kept in my mind. I will never forget about bumping into a big guy holding metallic tubes in both of his hands. Fortunately, he turned out to be peaceful, but scare homeless man searching for some spare iron. Or, the other day, right after shooting the final (5th) version of the NOTIX3, I was heading downstairs for the exit, when I suddenly saw two youngsters coming from behind the corner – no idea, how they got in. Luckily, at that time, I was not wearing the medical suit I used for the shooting anymore. I can’t imagine what would have happened if they saw a “doctor” coming towards them in the abandoned hospital… Nevertheless, the hospital is gone forever now, it was turned into a luxury apartment building. The pictures remain though, depicting the beauty of the spaces and the stories behind them.