London based photographer Rebecca Litchfield has been a SeeMe favorite for some time now and I’m thrilled to present her impressive body of work and a Q + A with her!
Abandoned buildings seem to be a recurring theme in your work and you capture them so beautifully! How do you find these amazing abandoned spaces?
I have been photographing abandoned buildings for around 3 years, it has become a passion that has taken over my life and consumed me completely. I cant imagine a world where I am not exploring and capturing these places to show to others.
It started as a hobby, but I found with time that I preferred this kind of photography to the fashion photography I was doing for many years commercially before. I now class myself a fully fine art photographer. I now spend 100% of my time, researching the locations on the internet, planning road trips and then capturing them and sharing them. I am working on a number of different series that I hope will all result in books and I sell my work as limited edition prints.”
Your photos bring these spaces new life and a touch of magic, but I would imagine it might be dark and eery in some of the buildings! What’s your process like when shooting them?
I think as humans we are curious about things we don’t recognise or are familiar with, there is true beauty in things that are decayed, I guess its the poetry that sings to us of nature claiming back what once was. After the exciting challenge of getting into the buildings my breathe is often taken away when I enter a world that is untouched by humans for so long. The textures and smells are unusual to normal life. Its this lack of humans in the space for so long that makes these places so eery, your imagination is set on fire by what the people once where like in the places and what they used to do there and then why are they no longer there.
I don’t find these places scary in anyway, in fact I feel safer in a place untouched by humans where only nature prevails then in the really bustling, hectic world where humans rush around in the chaos that is life. When in abandoned buildings I feel relaxed and I turn off from the stresses of everyday life.
Some people ask me if I am fearful of ghosts or bad people being in the buildings but I guess I just dont feel this, when I enter a building I turn off to emotions like that and I all I can think about is creating images. I want to capture the beauty I see and feel in that photo, technically I want to capture the scene as best as I can so I take a series of 5 exposures to make sure I capture all the lights an dark in the scene and then I will manually combine them later in photoshop to create a perfectly exposed shot. But creatively I want to make the viewer feel how I felt while in the space. The things we hone in on are things with emotional attachment or just something that looks so beautiful we couldn’t have ever imagined it, these are the things I search for and hope to capture to show people, through these images I want to breathe life back into these forgotten places.”
Tell us a bit about your background, did you always plan on being a photographer?
I have never been and never will be anything but a photographer. On leaving university I worked full time in a photography studio, it was funny as it took me a couple of months to find that job and my family would be ranting at me to get a job, any job as it would be money in my pocket, but I would put my foot down again and again and say if its not photography I wont do it.
After just a couple of years I took the plunge and decided to go it alone and see what would happen and I have never looked back. It is hard at times, if I go through a dry spell its always stressful, but I would rather go through life with the stress of not being able to pay the bills then the stress of being in a job that I will hate for the rest of my life and have a manger telling me what to, I simply cant take people telling me what I can and cant do, it just makes me want to do it more and I wont stop at anything until I achieve the goals I set for myself.
I studied a masters degree in fashion photography in 2009 and started work as a freelance fashion photographer for 3 years. But its only recently that I realised that my true calling is as a fine art photography and whilst I still love shooting models, its more about their surroundings and the feeling in the images that is important to me. I guess I never really fitted into the world of fashion, I love beautiful clothes in my shoots, but I am not one to follow fashion trends and the the strict rulles of creating fashion editorials for magazines, I’d rather just do what I want to do and create images that I find beautiful, not to try and please a client or photo editoro.”
You have a book coming out next month, congratulations! What’s the premise of the work you’re showing in the book?
I spent pretty much all of 2013 producing a book I was commissioned to make called Soviet Ghosts, it has been a dream for me to create a printed book and to be given this opportunity made my dream come true. I visited around 14 countries to capture the Soviet Empire and its satelliete states as it crumbles and decays slowly away. Soon its history will survive only in stories and photos and I hope that by creating this book I will preserve the dying memories of those that worked and lived in a part of history.
I captured towns, factories, prisons, schools, monuments, hospitals, theatres, military complexes, asylums & death camps across the former communist states, delivering a compelling narrative of both moral bankruptcy and flawed ideology. breathing new life into these forgotten places, finding both beauty and meaning in their post-apocalyptic decay. Extended essays by Tristi Brownett, Neill Cockwill and Professor Owen Evans, offer considerable contextual depth to the locations imbuing them with a wealth of connection and wonder. By virtue of its holistic approach, the book also explores how and why these once thriving communities became abandoned, whether by natural disaster, man-made catastrophe or simply through the march of time.”
Are there any other projects you’re working on that we can look forward to seeing?
I have two series I have been working on for the last three years ‘Orphans of Time’ is my ongoing series photographing abandoned buildings and I will continue this over the next few years, exploring more sites from all places around the world.
My series ‘The Underworld’ I will also be working on over the next couple of years, the series is a conceptual fine art series with models added to the abandoned spaces to add an element of surreal and beauty, my work has been described as beautifully dark and I think by adding the beauty of these models into the dark scenes of the abandoned places heightens this sense of beauty in darkness.
I have one more in the pipeline that I hope to make happen, there are many photographers photographing abandoned spaces, so I have tried to think of something that hasn’t been done before and I am excited to start work on this new series. It was inspired by a 5 second clip in a film I was watching and from that moment I have been rushing about inside my head figuring out how I can make it happen. Most of the time it is finances that hold me back from creating the huge dreams inside my head, but hopefully I can find a way to make this happen as the result will be truly beautiful.”
Thanks Rebecca! Be sure to follow Rebecca’s SeeMe Profile HERE >>
And Pre-order Soviet Ghosts HERE >>