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abandoned nursing home

abandoned New Orleans

Photographing abandoned New Orleans has been a goal of ours for several years.  We’ve always loved exploring abandoned locations and have a passion for photographing models in them.  Most of our abandoned work has been our series Last To Leave with sideshow performer Mackenzie Moltov.   I think our work in abandoned locations is some of our very best and most artistically satisfying.  It is important to us to bring beauty into these devastated and decaying structures before they’re gone.  We always treat our locations with respect, and never remove anything or cause further damage.  We love to show the beauty in abandonment, the poetry in being shattered, the strength found in the most vulnerable of places.  Of all the photos we’ve produced together, I think these are the most profound for both of us. I can’t thank Chere Noble enough for being the latest collaborator to bring these images to life.

Our abandoned model shoots are tricky to coordinate.  Traveling to photograph abandoned New Orleans was going to be even more challenging.   No matter how much location research you do, there is always a chance of limited access or increased surveillance.  Photographing a model requires pretty light, so we need to get in heavy bags of gear and lighting equipment.  Choosing your models carefully is crucial.  I love using burlesque performers.  Artists who quickly understand your vision for the space and help tell your story with wardrobe and hair changes is key.  You need someone who can tune out the physical fear of dangerously crumbling buildings, the threat of not knowing who may be lurking in the dark corners, and who is willing to risk arrest for the sake of art. Chere Noble was the perfect choice for abandoned New Orleans.

We rented a car and spent a day scouting locations.  We decided to challenge ourselves with minimal external lighting, so good natural light was essential.  Our research led us to the Touro-Shakespeare Home, a nursing home abandoned during hurricane Katrina. I don’t normally share our locations, as  it contributes to their destruction once word gets out to the urbex community.  But given the current climate, 12 years after hurricane Katrina felt like an important time to show the destruction left by natural disasters over a decade later.

The three story, neo-classical building was built in 1929, and designed to care for approximately 175 residents. Originally established by philanthropist Judah Touro, the first building was designed to house the city’s elderly poor, with a stipulation that it would eventually go to the control of New Orleans.  This last iteration of Touro’s kindness that we explored remained operational for 72 years, first as the city almshouse, and later as a senior care facility. In 2005, in the days preceding Hurricane Katrina, 120 residents were successfully evacuated.  They were never allowed to return, and the city of New Orleans remains in control of the building.

We knew we wanted a local dancer to work with, and Chere Noble was the perfect model to help tell our story.  Not only is she stunningly beautiful, she is a total pro, arriving with an armload of looks.  A purple ballgown for the graffiti covered chapel and overgrown courtyard had a dark fairy tale look that was hauntingly beautiful. We were able to create some interesting light with nothing but a couple of flashes tucked into various corners. Behind the building, a demolished and shattered car was a perfect backdrop for a Sara Connor inspired look.  We then moved on to the lower ninth ward, the worst of the Katrina devastated neighborhoods.  Chere channeled her inner post-apocalyptic bad ass babe in an abandoned house, and then bathed in some late afternoon sunlight in fishnets and a corset in a long abandoned gas station.

New Orleans has become a yearly escape and constant source of inspiration in our work and our lives.  It was truly special to have such a gorgeous shoot there.  I can’t wait to get back and find more of these amazing, hauntingly beautiful spots in abandoned New Orleans.

 

 

 

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The wonderful thing about being a photographer, is when an idea takes you down a road you hadn’t imagined possible.   It may start with a group of like minded artists or an idea, or a location or just one shoot.  A theme that make you want to explore more.  A shoot that becomes a series.  The series morphs and changes and becomes a different idea entirely.  And so begin our roadtrip adventures with Rev MacKenzie Moltov. It started with a road trip with a just barely pregnant MacKenzie to an abandoned amusement park in Pennsylvania.  It was a thrill.  I know that people have gotten into these delapidated, decaying  old parks before.  It is a little different when you’re sneaking in with a load of camera equipment and a half dressed statuesque beauty in full clown makeup lugging a bag full of sequined gowns and a lyra.  It was everything we love about location shoots.  A little danger, a little excitement and urban exploration with an unparalleled sideshow performer.  One Sword Swallowing Maternity and a Naked Philly Clown Mom shoot later, and it was time to get back on the road for another adventure.

For our second roadtrip with MacKenzie, we found a quirky little park a few hours outside of Philly.  We packed up our clown, who’s a delightful backseat companion. (Really, if you want an entertaining drive filled with stories and jokes and songs, bring your own clown. They’re perfect!) This park was a lot more open than our last. Surrounded by fences and no trespassing signs, high visibility from all angles. This was the type of little town that watches out for each other, and for the park who’s owners still hope to re-open despite it’s current state of total disrepair.

We parked a bit away, and found a way in.  Quickly dashing from building to building we were able to shoot against various walls and creaky old buildings.  There was even a collapsed carousel from a brutal winter from which it didn’t survive.  MacKenzie is a dream to shoot.  Fearless and whimsical and sexy and dirty and awkward and funny and beautiful.  Between the three of us, we have an ideal urban exploration team. We are totally respectful of the places we find.  We don’t vandalize, remove, harm or in any way alter the objects or areas left behind.  We don’t advertise where we’ve been in hopes of keeping them as they are.   We breathe new life into them.  We create art in what others consider garbage.  We honor the spirit of love and fun and happiness that still exists in what remains.  And we brought some old peeling walls a clown to show her love.  We have another road trip planned.  But this time we may be bringing a friend.