How long have you been a photographer?
I have been a photographer since 2006 when I left university with a BA Hon degree in Graphic Design and found my first full-time job as a studio photographer at Venture Portraits. I worked here for 4 years before starting my photography business Rebecca Bathory Photography and have been working as a freelance photographer since 2010.
Did you study photography?
I graduated from a BA degree in Graphic Design in 2006 and my masters degree in Fashion Photography in 2010 (I studied this while working at a portrait studio)
Do you recommend doing a similar degree?
Most of what I know about photography has been self-taught, degrees are expensive and you may want to think about using the money to simply take that time out of work and to assist different photographers and get experience through working at photography. Of course how much you progress will always depends on how much effort you put in. I enjoyed doing my degrees as it gave me a very definite path with set projects along the way that I was excited about doing, it’s always nice to have a qualification on your cv, but this isn’t the important thing. For those years I poured myself into learning photography and was surrounded by other creative people who have helped me grow and learn. I personally benefited from doing a master’s degree in photography, but you don’t need to do a degree to learn photography, you can set yourself very definite career goals and still remain on a great path into a photography career.
Is photography your job?
It is indeed, I have known work as nothing else and will never work as anything else, I’m a photographer till the day I die and whilst I am not hugely rich from what I do, I am extremely thankful for the opportunities this job gives me and if I could choose between earning £50,000 a year and hating my job and under £20,000 earning very little for photography which I love, I’d choose this life every time, no thought about it. I am a strong believer of living life with experiences over possessions and I am lucky that my job gives me these opportunities to travel the world and experience such amazing things. – Collect Moments Not Things.
What kind of photography work did you do in the first years of being freelance?
My masters degree was in fashion photography, I worked as a fashion photographer between 2010 and 2012, I photographed editorials for fashion magazines, did look book shoots and a handful of celebrity shoots including Katie Melua. When I fell in love with abandoned buildings it took over from this though and now my main focus is on
Have you won any awards for your photography?
Early 2010 I won Professional Photography Magazines Professional Photographer of the Year 2009, I also won the editorial category in 2010 and was a runner-up in 2014 for the medium format category, I won the Clapham Art Prize in 2014.
Where has your work been published?
Guardian, Independent, Boing Boing, Viral Nova, Huh Magazine, Huffington Post Japan, Juxtapoz Magazine, Viral Spell, Mental Floss, Co.Design, Kyiv Post, CT Cantina, Gavin Lewis, Trendhunter , Ian the Architect, Beautiful Decay, Shortlist, Daily Mail, Photo Professional, The Flaneur, ePhotozine, We Heart, Huffington Post UK, Buzzfeed, DIY Photography, Buzzfeed, The Calvert Foundation, Applies Arts Magazine, Cluster Magazine , Weeder, Wired, Photography Blogger, Deezen, Decor 10. Media fax, De Volkskrant, Britains Got Photo Talent, Huffington Post UK. News Talk Radio, Baumeister, I-Ref Magazine, Refresher.sk, Zeitjung.de, Digital Camera News, Lowdown Magazine, Atlas obscure, Thought catalogue, MSN News,, Distractify, Weather Channel, PETA Pixel, Ryot , Visual News, Inspiration Grid, LCF alumni , The Photo Brigade, Twisted Sifter, The Coolest, Gizmodo, Fisheye, Papercut Magazine, Big Issue Australia, National Geographic Traveller Magazine, Front Row Monthly Magazine, Styleology Magazine, Litebook Magazine, Fab Magazine, Chaos Magazine, Slave Magazine, Semperley Magazine, Faceon Magazine, Oh La La Magazine, Scene Magazine, Stylist Magazine, Sunday Times Culture Magazine, German Profifoto Magazine, Croydon Guardian, Sublime Magazine Cover, London Metro Magazine, Sublime Magazine, Turning Pro Magazine, Professional Photography Magazine, Iconography Magazine, Daydreams Magazine, Dark Beauty Magazine, New York Times Online, View London Online, The Playground Online, Timeout Magazine, Schon Magazine, Actitudes Magazine Cover, Pravda Magazine Cover, German Gothic Magazine, Makeup Artist Magazine, Black Hair Magazine, Reveal Magazine, Digital SLR User Magazine, Photography Monthly Magazine, Practical Photography Magazine, Digital Photographer Magazine, What Digital Camera Magazine.
Do you give photography talks?
I have give talks at Focus on Imaging, The Photography Show and Photolive, if you’d like to keep updated with when I may be giving a talk keep updated on my Facebook page
Have you always photographed abandoned buildings and what was your first abandoned building?
I visited my first abandoned building in 2004, it was a Victorian asylum near where I went to university, my tutor suggested I visited for a project I was doing at the time, it absolutely took my breathe away and couldn’t get over the fact that such places existed, I then made some more visits to another asylum, called West Park (that has now been demolished). I spent many days and hours walking around this asylum and whilst I wasn’t into photography back then, I did take a few snap shots.
When did photographing abandoned buildings become more of a bigger part of your life?
In 2012 a couple wanted a zombie engagement shoot in an abandoned factory, I asked one of my friends (who I had shot their wedding a few years before) if he could join us as I knew he visited abandoned buildings a lot. He came along and I really enjoyed the shoot, he invited me to more abandoned buildings and I feel hook line and centre in love and haven’t stopped visiting them for the last 3 years.
Will you let me know the location of this photo?
As much as I wold love nice trusted people to see the buildings I do, I can’t give locations to strangers, it’s not that I don’t trust you, but if I haven’t met you I also don’t know who you will then pass the details to. I don’t give the location details away unless I know the person, due to the risk of these places getting vandalised, things stolen from them or even worse arsonist attacking them as has happened many times. Even in the three years I have been exploring I have seen the decline of many buildings and it is simply due to the public being aware of how to find them. We keep the motto ‘Leave on Footprints, Take only Photos’ I would never harm building or steal from to, I believe even though it is abandoned, it is not for others to take. Yes sometimes I come across expensive items, but I would never steal from these places.
How do you find the buildings?
It takes a lot of internet research to find them, I spend hours researching and plotting pins on maps, as part of a community we share the cool locations with trusted friends and do trades, we help each other knowing that we won’t share with others or damage the locations
Why do you code name buildings?
Again to protect the locations of the buildings we give them code names instead of just naming them, this means that they can’t be easily researched and found by vandals.
Is it illegal to explore abandoned buildings?
In most countries the law is that as long as you are not breaking and entering, stealing anything or causing damage you are not breaking the law, this changes if it is privately owned by someone and they can prosecute if they choose to, also it is illegal to trespass on train lines and you can get a big fine. In other countries such as the USA it is illegal to trespass, so it isn’t wise to explore in these places.
How many countries have you visited abandoned buildings in?
So far UK, Belgium, Luxembourg, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, France, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Poland , Slovakia, Czech Republic, USA but I intend to keep adding locations from all around the world in coming years.
How many abandoned buildings have you visited?
It’s hard to keep count and many I have visited more than once but I would say that in 3 years, approximately 300 if not more
Who do you explore with?
I prefer to keep the size of the group down to under 4, I very rarely go in a group larger than that. I also will never explore on my own as it is very dangerous due to rotten floorboards and decay taking hold of the buildings. If an accident was to occur it would be incredibly dangerous to be alone. I do many trips to Europe and we will always be a car with 4 people, this way we share petrol, hotels, sea crossings and keeps the price down. I don’t like to explore in more than 4 people as I don’t want to get caught in the buildings and the more there are the more it increases this chance.
How do you get into buildings?
As I we don’t break and enter, we always have to find a way in, normally this will be under or over a fence or through a window, but sometimes we will have to play detective in the best way to get inside without causing any kind of damage.
Do you take safety precautions against black mould and asbestos?
I should be wearing a mask when I go into the buildings and preventing myself from asbestos, pigeon poo and asbestos, but I’m naughty and don’t, in all honesty I could be damaging my health so really should be, but the masks are really claustrophobic and wearing glasses means my glasses often get steamed up. I do however take extra care when walking around buildings knowing how dangerous floors can be, I will not take un nescassiry risks in the buildings.
How long do you spend in a building?
How long I spend in a building really depends on how big it is and how much there is to see, some are so small for an example an abandoned morque, that you could just spend half an hour, others are huge like abandoned asylums and will take hours to explore. We normally go on road trips for 3 – 7 days and will create maps with many locations pinned, so someday we may try to fit up to 4/5 locations depending on how many daylight hours there are.
Do you move things to take a photo?
There are different types of photographers that go into abandoned buildings, some act as documentary photographers and go in and capture the places as it is, without moving things. I class myself as a fine art photographer and sometimes I will move things to make the photo look more aesthetically pleasing, I don’t do it often and will never damage items and put them back after, but I just find that doing things like removing rubbish from the scene and making important elements more prominent in the shot beneficial for my shots. The way I see it, is unless you are one of the first people to go to an abandoned building, they will never be as they got left anyway when they were first abandoned.
What have been your favourite abandoned buildings?
I have visited so many decaying buildings now its hard to choose just a few but if I was to pick a top ten it would be something like this (in no particular order)
1 Bull Manor UK
2 Virginia Lunatic Asylum USA
3 Buzludzha Bulgaria
4 Underwater Ballroom UK
5 The Chapel Poland
6 Westpark Asylum UK
7 Beelitz Germany
8 Chateau Lumiere France
9 Cavern of Lost Souls UK
10 Dr Annas House Germany
Have you ever been caught?
Very rarely do I get caught in buildings as we try to arrive before sunrise, are very quite and never go exploring in large groups, we are also pretty good at hiding if we see a pesky security guard, it’s always fun playing cat and mouse inside the labyrinth of abandoned buildings. In the early days I would get caught every now and again, but it doesn’t really happen that much anymore. In 3 years I may have been caught about 20 times, mainly by security who will lead you off the premise, around 5 times by police (once in Belgium by 6 armed police who ordered us to our knees), once by the Russian military, but thats a whole different story.
Did you get in trouble?
If you get caught, they are normally angry to begin with but they normally calm down if we apologise for being there, we show respect knowing that we were not meant to be there and they let us go when they knew we were photographers and know we are not there to damage the building.
Do you allow the press to publish your photos?
I won’t allow the press to publish my photos from abandoned buildings as I want to protect the buildings from harm from the public and the press have a tendency to publish locations for the places, which leads to vandals destroying them. If you are a photography or similar type magazine and would like to feature me as an artist or my work as an article/ interview please contact me and I will see how I can help firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you have any books published?
Are you working on any other books?
I have been commissioned to make a book on Dark Tourism, due to be published in 2018, I am also working on a self published limited edition book of 1000 copies for my Underworld Series and am looking for a publisher for a book for my Presence of Absence series
Where do you share your photos?
I share my photos on this blog and
Can I buy your artwork?
My photos are available to buy in three sizes as limited editions, all with certificate of authenticity, please contact email@example.com for prices
Where are you planning on going next?
My plans for 2015 are
Bulgaria – February
Iceland – February
Chernobyl – April
France – April
Italy – May
India – August
Tibet – August
China – August
Thailand – September
Cambodia – September
Vietnam – September
Philippines – September
Japan – October
Mexico – October
USA – November
Possibly Israel and Antarctica
What camera equipment do you use?
Medium Format System
Lowepro Protactic 350
Lowepro Protactic 450
Lowepro Flipside 200
Lowepro Flipside 400 AW
Lowepro Rover 45L AW
Lowepro Pro Roller 100 AW
Lowepro Pro Roller 300 AW
Lowepro Toploader Pro 65W
Lowepro Harness & Modular System
Lowel Continuous Lighting
What setting do you use for your photos?
Most of my building shots are using 28mm (17mm 35mm equivalent) I set my camera to F16 (slightly higher than an SLR where I’d use F11 as I want the corners to be pin shape) and iso 100, I take three exposures, one correctly exposed, one under and one over. I take an under exposed photo for windows and over exposed photos to gain detail in the areas of darkness, these exposures are normally long as the iso is so low and the F stop at 16.
For model shoots I use flash lighting so I can keep the F stop at 16 and iso at 100, but without having to use a long shutter speed so the model will remain sharp.
What programs do you use to edit your photos?
I use Capture One Pro to process the RAWS into Tiffs lift shadows and bring back highlights, get rid of any purple fringing. I then take the correctly exposed image into Photoshop 6. I mask in areas of the underexposed Tiff when needed for blown out windows and mask the overexposed photo for areas that need more light. I will use dodge and burn tool, clone tool to get rid of anything I don’t want in the photo and finally use curves to adjust the colours in the photo.
Model shot’s take more work in Photoshop, the basics are the same, but I will also work on the hair, face, skin and clothes to make sure it looks perfect. I try to shot the photo in camera so not a lot of Photoshop is needed.
Do you think taking photo of a model in a building is damaging to the building?
Model shoots take a lot more organisation to make sure they run smoothly, as it takes so much more time to organise, it would be devastating to get caught in the building and the shoot to be over, so I have researched extensively which buildings are suitable for a model shoot and which aren’t I’d say approximately 3 in 10. I will always visit a building first to check it out before I take a model there.
I will still not take more than 4 people on this type of shoot and they will all be told that it is essential to make no noise to remain unnoticed, we also always arrive before the sun comes up so we are not seen by anyone. I normally only shoot around 4 shots on this type of shoot and I will storyboard exactly where each one will be and what pose the model will be in, it’s often a case of just firing a couple of shots and then the image is captured as I know exactly what I want from each shot.
On one occasion I knew that the area we were shooting was overlooked by the public, so we literally ran to the middle of the room, got the shot and then quickly hid again. A lot of urban explorers do group shots to capture the team on road trips, my model shoots are very much the same, just the model is wearing a nice dress. I haven’t been caught on a model shoot yet, due to the pure amount of research I do before hand.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m doing a PhD in Dark Tourism, which means I will travel to hundreds of sites around the world over the next two years associated with death and tragedy, this is also a book project that has been commissioned by my previous publisher. I am working on my series The Underworld for 3 years, which will also result in a book and finally my series The Presence of Absence which is my photography of abandoned building will continue for the next three years.
What advise would you offer to someone starting out?
If you feel truly passionate about photography and pour every part of your soul into creating the images you dream about then one day you will start to get somewhere with it. You wont get there over night and there will be times when you want to give up, but just don’t, keep going and good things will happen. Don’t look at what others are doing and what stage they are at just do it because you love doing it, push your self to think outside the box and develop your own unique style and you will stand out from your competitors.
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m inspired by the abandoned buildings and locations I find and by the beauty that can be found in the darker side of life. I attempt to create beauty in darkness, poetry and meaning in the forgotten and surreal, imaginary worlds amongst decay. I try to reawaken old narratives, find beauty and meaning in their ruin and revive the memories of lost moments. Unseen to the ordinary public who pass their boarded windows and fenced walls, no trespass signs refrain communities from seeing the hidden world within, slowly being claimed back by nature unseen. I find entry to these mystical places hidden to the world and sensitively capture them as a beautiful record, as they deserve to be recorded for posterity too, before they are lost as time rolls on.
In reality these places will cease to exist very soon and as the memories fade, they will be forgotten and although derelict places have no appeal as tourist destinations, their value and place in cultural memory is fundamental to the history of the 20th century. Her works also add elements of the surreal and mythology through my Underworld series, these works further take you down the rabbit hole into a world of dreams and the haunting, shadowy passing of time. A lot of photographers find inspiration from other photographers, but I prefer to look at real life, the color’s and tones of my surroundings and capture them in the best way I can.