Thanks Paul...

 Well who is Paul? I’ve never mentioned a Paul in any of my posts before, so clearly he’s no friend of mine, but for those who know me well, and know my deeper side, know that I am a huge Beatles fan. I recently purchased a book, which happened to be a biography on Paul, I also bought one for John as well, but let’s be honest we all know Paul was the better Beatle so I decided to read his first! Anyway, as I was reading this book I couldn’t help but realize how similar our personalities are. Paul is a perfectionist in everything he does, songwriting, playing music, or just being an entertainer.  I have been told by some I can be the same way on occasion, when I really put my mind to something I strive for perfection. Problem is perfection is impossible, that is the part that drives me nuts.  But what Paul has taught me through this book, it’s not necessarily about being perfect, it’s all about taking what you are doing and continually making yourself better.  By continually making yourself better, you are perfect.  If you are up to date on your Beatle history this is also what lead to the dimise of the Beatles.  Paul always wanted to improve on his songs and to have them sound perfect, but John was under the influence of Yoko and really didn’t care anymore about how good the music was, they were all about the message.

Now the other thing Paul and I have in common is holding other people to a very high standard.  I have very little patience and so does he.  Paul would have 36 hour marathon studio sessions just to bang out one song because someone wouldn’t hit one note exactly right.  Now, I’m not near this bad, but I think I hold myself to the highest standard.  I am continually looking at my work, criticizing, seeing where to improve, and only showing what I consider to be the best work.
So what the heck does this have to do with photography you are probably asking yourself by now?  Well very little!  But, while reading through the book, Paul mentioned a quote that has been stuck in my head ever since and I think it completely relates. “You don’t have to like something to be inspired by it.”  This really resonated with me, because I dislike much of my work, but I could never figure out why I kept going back to this thing we call photography.  I just needed someone to spell it out in front of me before it registered in my head.
The reason I keep coming back to this beast is because even though I might not like a lot of my work, it inspires me to continually get better and to strive for perfection.  So you say that’s great, now what?  Well that’s what brings me to this set of pictures.  In my previous sets I have went for very vibrant, very saturated looks, and so I decided why not try something different.  Maybe it will be better and maybe it will put me on a path to perfection someday.  So I tried something in a completely different direction, the grungiest, contrastiest, black and whites I could create.  Now are these pictures better than previous?  That’s up for debate, but it did give me one thing more important.  A learning opportunity, and as Paul has taught me that’s what you continually need to be on the right path.

Reflections... The Linseed Oil Factory

Well it was time for some members of the group of 7 to get another urbex fix to satisfy their cravings and hopefully carry them over the winter. We haven’t been able to enter any buildings since Detroit, as Hamilton was a bust, so to be honest I was starting to get the shakes from being in withdrawal. As you may or may not know, I had the privilege of working downtown Toronto for 2 years, and got to ride the GO train into work everyday. The first few weeks were great, meeting new people, getting lots of reading done, even a little homework from time to time! But after awhile the annoying clickety clack of the rails, and the rocking back and forth starts to wear you down. Believe or not, but one of my good seat mates has been doing it for 30 years! I soon got tired of this routine and began my endless hour and ten minute constant stares out the window in both directions, looking for new things to keep me entertained. I luckily found this graffiti laden building in the junction area of Toronto fairly close to Union Station. I spotted it way before I was ever into photography, but yet I was intrigued by it and almost wanted to pay it a visit to see its story.

It stood out like a sore thumb, in a neighbour hood of houses that can’t be more than 5 years old, and beside this beautiful park with a soccer field and an off leash dog area. Yet, I got more and more attracted to this building every time we passed it. One day on the GO train, it would seem as if fate was in my corner, I was reading a photo magazine, when a guy in the quad next to me noticed it and started a conversation. Turns out he is huge into photography, and he even introduced me to this strange concept of going into abandoned buildings just to take pictures! Brian is his name, and he has become a great mentor to me as he has been on pretty near every photo shoot I have done to date. We started chatting nearly everyday on the train, and I think I mentioned how I want to get into the Linseed building nearly everyday. I think after about a year he was getting pretty tired of it!
After we finally got some free time as a group, I arranged for a visit to this building so that we could see what it was all about. Let me tell you, this did not dissapoint at all! I think it will carry my urbex high over for a long time! A building that is 101 years old, is something different in its own right, the architecture, the materials used to build it, and the surroundings were all things that had to be taken in and experienced. To me, it was just nice to visit a part of Toronto history. This building was key to the development of the Junction, as it was one of the first buildings there. Linseed Oil was a key commodity back in the early 1900’s before oil and polymers were developed. Linseed was used in paints, varnishes, and was a weather proofer for canvas. It was truly a unique ingredient, that now is virtually unobtainable now a days.
The building represented some closure for me though. As I no longer take the train to work, except for the odd day here and there. I have lost my ‘seat’ on the train, but still hold onto some great friendships developed over those two years, but this building was the last thing I was holding onto from the GO train that I wanted to derive some benefit from before I moved on. It was a glorious building in side, and I’m so happy I was able to go there with the guys and experience it!

The above photos are my favorites from that day, but I will post some additional photo’s over on my facebook page so you can experience the whole building! You can check them out here and make sure to click the ‘Like’ button at the top of the page to keep up to date!

The Final Detroit Post... for this year!

To see the other Packard Automotive posts please follow these links: Post 1, Post 2, Post 3
Well it has come to this, the final post of my Detroit series for 2011. It only took about 5 months but I have made it! From shoot to post did seem to take an exorbitant amount of time, normally I do not let shoots go that long before I finalize them. Detroit however was different.
I really wanted to make the Detroit series stand out. It was the first major photography dedicated trip I had ever been on, it was out of the country, and frankly right out of my element. When we first got our camera I was immediately attracted to capturing the beauty of flowers. They have a certain innocence to them, yet they are so vibrant and full of life. I think what attracts me to them is they replicate the human life in so many ways, where you can see their entire life cycle over the course of one year.
I knew Detroit was going to be different though. I had never really taken pictures of buildings, let alone abandoned buildings. I did very little research prior to the trip, mainly because I wanted to bring my own style, see frames that I wanted to capture. I didn’t want to be spoiled by what was on Flickr or any of those other sites and end up capturing the same images as all the photog’s before me had.
But once we got back from Detroit, I knew photography for me had changed. I had started to see things in a different fashion. I explored with the concept of HDR while in Detroit. Not all of my pictures that used HDR turned out great, but I definitely learned something from it, and know where I want to take it in the future.

People have told me that these photos from Detroit don’t look real. Like some how they are a distorted reality, well we live in a distorted world don’t we? What I felt in these buildings while I was there was a sense of loneliness (well duh, it’s abandonded!) but it’s more than that, really it’s a sense of isolation. When we were inside the Packard building, it was like the rest of the world didn’t exist. I really tried to put that into the pictures and convey a different message.

Making this trip has really defined a sense of style I want to put into my photo’s. Where I go from here is going to be the next step. I need to expand on the style and fine tune each frame to get it to a level that will satisfy my inner craving to keep getting better.
I hope that you enjoyed all my frames from Detroit. It was a trip of a life time and it took just about as long to get the pictures all posted for you to see. We have plans to visit Detroit again next year so this time I will know to do my research before hand!

Outside the Pack

This is the third post in a series of images from the Packard Automotive plant in Detroit.  If you missed the first you can read it here, if you missed the second you can read it here. As I have said in the previous posts, the pack is an amazing sight! The outside is definitely no different. Surprisingly though, I think there is less graffiti on the outside of the building than there is on the inside. Possibly because people are afraid of getting busted tagging, but I highly doubt that’s a valid reason in this area of Detroit. There are a lot of interesting things around the pack. First, and probably the worst, was the office of the Wild Cats Motorcycle Club where a few people were murdered a few months previous in December 2010. Let me tell you how re-assuring that feeling is when we are walking in an empty building right across the street from the Wild Cats where no one would find us for weeks!

Another interesting feature outside the pack is this little rinky-dink two story Motel rightly named the Packard Motel. I Google’d this motel after we got back from Detroit, and surprisingly it has some pretty good reviews. Am I brave enough to spend a night there, heck no! But at least its satisfying to know there is a gem amongst all that decay.
The outside of the building was about the only place where scrappers have yet to take most of the metal off the walls. Some sections of the building are completely made out of steel so it does surprise me that this has still remained. It could be either extremely dangerous to try and chop this all down, or the scrappers just can’t find a way to haul it out of there. I am doubting it has to be that dangerous, because they seemed to have no problem cutting out all the electrical wiring on the inside of the building.
I really enjoyed looking at the outside of this building with all the unique graffiti and what not. It had a completely different feel than what was on the inside. I will leave you with two more pictures and stay tuned for the last series of pictures from the inside of the plant.

Offices of the Pack

This is the second post in a series about the Packard Automotive building, if you missed the first you can read it here.
Since this complex is so large, over 40 acres of just buildings, I had to break this down into a number of different posts focusing on common themes. The first was all about the different vehicles that were found within the building, this post focuses on the office portion of the complex. The office building was basically a catacomb of 2×4 studs where most of the walls had be taken out by scrappers over the years.

Even though there was no walls left, you could still make out visible hallways and office divisions, and let the record show you can tell this building is old! The hallways were so narrow compared to today’s office standards. All of the offices were pretty small compared to ones seen today, except for the presidents office which I will get to in a bit.

It would be interesting to think what an office would be like back in those days before computers were around. I have only grown up in a world of fax machines and e-mail so I know what makes an office tick today, but back in the hay-day of Packard Automotive these devices didn’t exist. It would have been interesting to see how the paper is moved back and forth between offices, how they sort their items, how quickly information gets passed through the building. Now everything is instantaneous, I don’t think I could go back and live in a time like that knowing what we have now.

Walking through the building we could noticeably tell which office was the former Presidents, or at least the person in charge of this factory. It was quite large, everything was wood, and it had a nice window view to the factory side. Not to mention there was an elevator right outside the door, and the main office entrance staircase was about 10 feet outside the door as well.

To me this room spoke of classic black and white films, where the president and the executives are smoking cigars and drinking brandy while the rest of the blue color workers are slaving away. This office was much more detailed than the rest of the building, and I’m surprised its still in this good of condition with the walls still intact. Whatever did happen in this office I will never know, but it was great to just sit there for a few moments and take in all the history that has been through it!

Vehicles of the Pack

The name Packard for most people will bring up images of classic vehicles that maybe they drove when they were younger, or maybe their father or grandfather had drove at one point. Back in the day the Packard was class, they were the middle class luxury car of the period. My family has been involved with cars, for what feels like ever since they were invented. I’ve never had the chance to have a ride in a Packard, but hearing that name brings up childhood memories of the stories my grandfather used to tell me. When my buddy Brian approached me a while back about a trip to Detroit that Packard plant was a must visit location. This place is absolutely ginormous. Its over 40 acres of just abandonment, still owned by Ford and no plans for any development. From what I have heard there is so much environmental issues with the soil, its cheaper for Ford to let the land sit as is than to redevelop it.
The Packard plant was our last stop of the day, and after seeing the first buildings I knew the scrappers would have already had a hay-day with this location, since it’s been abandoned for like 40 years. I was hoping to see an old car left over from the days of production, but wasn’t giving my hopes up! What I didn’t expect to see was a ton of other types of vehicles that were left in the building.
How these vehicles got here is way beyond me! I know there is a ramp that was used during the production process at one point to move the cars up to different levels, but it had a hole through the cement about 10 feet across so there was no way a vehicle could get past that point. The types of vehicles present in the building was the other thing that blew my mind. As you can see there was a boat, there was a few other boats, but I wasn’t able to get a good shot of those, there was a delivery truck and also a flatbed truck. Now this is just what we seen in the small section of the building we covered, who knows what else exists in there!
Now I have to admit, once I seen these vehicles that were left behind, I fell in love with them. They were so eclectic, and had such great colors from various graffiti artists. The flat bed truck was used as a paintball target, so it was basically covered in green and blue paint. The delivery truck on the other hand looks like it has seen better days. It certainly looks like it has been there for some time as it has been rusted out to no end. We ended up doing a group shot inside the delivery truck, so I decided to walk into the back cabin part of it, I don’t even want to describe what that looked like!
Being in this building was pretty magical! I have a ton more photo’s to share which will be coming up over the next couple weeks, but for now I will just share one more unedited shot of a couple photog’s I was with during the day.
Hope you enjoy!

Oh Father, Where Art Thou? Part 2

This is the second part of this series on St. Agnes Church.  If you missed the first you can read it here.I had been walking around the church for a while now, still not feeling 100% but marvelling in this beauty that was before me. I was wondering, how could such a rich piece of history go to waste like this? litterally as we were standing there, little crumblings from the ceiling were falling down on top of us. Dust was building on the camera lens from debris and all the dirt being kicked up off the floor from all of us walking around. The basement which was completely empty except a few chairs, looked like it had been flooded at some point, probably from pipes freezing in the winter, which had spawned a whole culture of mold and other interesting plants.

I managed to make my way up to the balcony which looked like it once held the choir and the organ. This is where I really started to fear for safety, as much of the balcony had been stripped away. There were nails poking out in every direction. Some of the floor boards had been pryed away and you could see the floor below. As I ventured out on the balcony, there were three of us standing and just looking straight out into where the congregation would have once been. The view was absolutley spectacular from that point of view (picture at very top of this post). The morning light was shinning in from all the windows and it was just gorgeous in there. When we got back home to the GTA, I was doing some research and came across one Urban Exploration website that listed over 20 abandon churches in Detroit. I don’t know how many churches there are within Detroit, but 20 seemed like a lot to be empty! So, is this a wide spread issue across the US, or even Canada? I’m not really sure, but they certainly make for great subject matter.
I haven’t really been religious for a number of years, but recently my family has started to get back into the faith. My sister and father are both active members in their congregation, and I fully support that. I have been with them a few times to their service, and seeing the sense of community their church has, is probably why it hit me the hardest to see that building in such disaray. I always picture a church congregation fighting and doing what it takes to keep that community together and doing whatever it takes to help another person out. Seeing that missing here was truly a sad scene. In one way I am happy and fortunate I could document this building before it’s gone, but hopefully in the future there will not be so many empty churches with this kind of beauty left to sit.

Oh Father, Where Art Thou? Part 1

Next up in this Detroit Urbex adventure that I took this past summer is the beautiful St. Agnes Church. We had been planning this trip to Detroit for what seemed like an eternity, with a list a mile long of buildings we wanted to see. Unfortunately there is only so much you can do in a day, and we really didn’t want to cross the boarder multiple times over the weekend, so needless to say a lot of buildings got the axe. St. Agnes Church luckily did not! This church is full of history, and was only abandoned recently, but has seen a very fast decline into a state of disarray.
St. Agnes Church was our first entry of the day, and as soon as we walked through the door, my mind was blown! This was litterally the first abandoned place I have ever entered in my life. I didn’t know what to expect, would there be other people there? Would there be anything dangerous or harmful? Who knows at that point, and I didn’t really want to do to much research before hand as I wanted it to be a surprise. Maybe that’s why my stomach was so upset in the morning?
St. Agnes Church is a Gothic era building that was completed in 1924 after the parish out grew the Paster’s own house, where they had been meeting since 1913. The Church remained in service until 1989, when the parish of St. Agnes and another church, St. Theresa, became small enough to merge. This left the building empty for a year until the Martyrs of Uganda Parish was established. That congregation lasted until 2006, when they ran into financial difficulties and could no longer operate out of the building. The property has a significantly sized school in the back that looked to be used for primary aged children, and focused primarily on religion. Unfortunately we only had about 30 minutes to spend in this building due to so many other things we had to see that day, so we did not get to enter the school, but if I ever make it back to Detroit it is going to be on my list! Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where I will share a few more pictures of St. Agnes.

The Morning I Wasn't Feeling So Hot

The morning of our Detroit trip I felt absolutely terrible! I had the worst stomach ache and it even caused me to cut our one location short so that I could make an emergency pit stop, sorry guys! We ended up going to this little organic coffee shop just down the street from the old Cass Tech highschool (which is now demolished and you can see the vids on YouTube), so that we could get a bite to eat and for me make a second emergency pit stop. I managed to eat this breakfast sandwich which was absolutely amazing and it had some horseradish on it which tasted delicious, but did not help my stomach one bit! I seen this sign on a building on the corner of the street and though it looked pretty cool, kinda retro, but I really wasn’t in the mood to walk over there and shoot it, I really just wanted to go back and sit in the van. Knowing that I was probably only ever going to be at this spot once in my life, I forced myself out of the van and took the shot. This ended up being one of my favourites from the whole trip, I love how the clouds just popped in this and I didn’t even notice the little smoke stacks in the corner when I shot the frame, but now that I look back it provides a nice Detroit feel to the overall scene. Lesson learned: even when you aren’t feeling the best, you gotta make do and push forward, you never know what might surprise you!

Lights, Camera,..... Action? Part 2

This is the second blog series on the Eastown Theater. If you happened to miss the first you can read it here. The Eastown Theater was the second building we entered on our trip, but we were still packed for time.  We only had about 30 minutes to spend inside, and very little to spend outside as we had to move on to other buildings, and also avoid being caught or interupted by the locals.  It was a bit unfortunate that we didn’t get to spend to long outside, because that is where I seen some of the saddest things on the whole trip.  Cars up on cynder blocks, every other house was abandoned, and so many people living on the streets.  The neighbourhood, simply put, was rough!
Inside, what could I really say about it? It was a dump, literally. People desperate for money had ripped all of the chairs out to sell the metal for scrap and left the cushions in a huge pile.  People dumped a whack load of tires, and other garbage inside this place.  I’m not really sure why this building was picked to dump tires over any other building, maybe there was an auto garage around that couldnt afford to take the tires to a real dump?

Eastown showed a variety of classic films up until the 60’s when it closed down due to lack of attendance and the development of multi-screen theaters. In 1969, Eastown opened up again, but as a rock venue hosting some of the biggest and most influential rockers of all time. Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Bob Seeger, The Doors, and the Grateful Dead are among the biggest names that graced the stage at Eastown.
The sounds of rock and roll only lasted 4 years when, again in 1973 the theater closed down. The theater seen numerous changes between then and the 90’s including a church, an adult theatre, a rave house, a jazz theatre, and a performing arts theatre.
Taking pictures was very difficult in this building. The stage had a very large hole that was covered by a piece of plywood. The roof between the main floor and the balcony was falling apart and was basically supported by just re-bar. This, all while dodging all the garbage that was all over the floors.

The lighting in this building was absolutely terrible as well. There was only 2 sources of light really, some coming in through a hole in the wall above the balcony on the second floor, and some coming in from behind the stage where the fire had ripped through. I can only imagine what this place was like in its hay days, playing old black and white movies. The amount of popcorn that was spilt on those floors, and the number of first dates this place probably entertained. So many people have passed through this building, but the shape it currently is in, I have a feeling we will probably some of the last people that got to enjoy this magnificent place.

I tried to edit this whole series and give the photos a classic film feel, by converting them to black and white and adding some grain. I hope you enjoy the series on the Eastown Theater.

Lights, Camera,..... Action? Part 1

There was a group of photogs I ventured down to Detroit with this past July, and one of our stops was the Eastown Theater.  This building was absolutely majestic in the day, at least from the pictures I have seen, but now the building lies in utter ruins in a pretty rough area of Detroit.  In the first part, of this two part series, I really wanted to talk about the history of this building.  In the second part I will show some more of my pictures and discuss the current state of this building.  The theater was built in 1931 as a movie house due to the vast expansion and fascination with cinema during that era.

There have been numerous changes to the building over the years which I really wanted to show you.  The very top picture is opening day at the Eastown, with all the hustle and bustle.  The first movie was an early Clark Gable called Sporting Blood.  It is amazing what can change over time though, when we arrived there was no longer buildings on either side of the theatre, all of the signs have been completely removed and there isn’t a car or person to be found.  In August of 2010 a fire struck the Eastown and burnt down a significant portion of building.  From what I understand the part that burnt was an apartment building which housed a number of people, and while on our trip a few photog’s found a lot of personal belongings mixed in the rubble.

Here are a few of the pictures I was able to take from the inside of the theater.  The picture below is from the stage looking out and up at the balcony.  You can see the rough condition this building is in.  I don’t expect it to be standing much longer, since most of the walls were falling apart down to just the re-bar.

Check out the next part in a few days to see more of my pictures and to get a little more of the history around the Eastown Theatre.