Abandoned things have always captured my imagination. Factories, churches, train stations—they’re like the underdogs of architecture, and like all things underdog, they hold a massive place in my heart.
I grew up across the street from a paper mill that was abandoned in the late 1990’s – early 2000’s. Even before the mill shut down completely, I remember lying in bed as a kid and watching the sun set behind the massive wall of creepy square windows. I’d try to imagine what sorts of activities happened in the paper mill, and I’d always have to stop a few minutes later because I’d freak myself out too bad. There had to be ghosts in there. Mill ghosts!
I started exploring the mill just after graduating from high school. I’d walk down the long-neglected train tracks with my friend Cal, clutching my camera while he held on to his voice recorder. I took pictures while he captured odd sounds to mix into the gloriously eerie and odd tunes that we recorded. Gender Roles 4 lyfe.
Once we explored the entirety of the mill, we of course had to show our friends. Late one night, a group of us hooligans snuck down the railroad tracks, climbed under the barbed wire fencing, and walked into that black hole of a building. There were so many rooms, so many echoes and drips and cold drafts. We used flashlights to get around. A few friends tipped a forklift. You can imagine the air-ripping noise that sucker made when it landed on the tens of thousands of square feet of concrete. The thought of it still makes my heart skip a beat.
A few years after the start of these factory expeditions, I started modeling. Somehow, I found a competition on Facebook and entered one of my photographs. The picture won Editor’s Choice, which meant a spread in an indie magazine and a free photoshoot. On a cold day in December, I drove down to Gary where I met a total stranger at her house for hair and makeup. She drove me to Union Station, where I met Tyrell. We went all around Gary that day, snapping photos and laughing. I was mesmerized by the buildings – they were like the paper mill, but they each had different souls. Personalities. Some were friendlier than others.
Tyrell and I clicked right away. A few months later I went to Tyrell’s house to film a movie where I played a Jehovah’s Witness who got murdered. I know. It’s ridiculous. But you should have seen the looks I got when I drove out of Gary that afternoon, with fake blood all over my face and arms and nice sweater dress.
A year or so later, the Decay Devils formed. I joined a little while after, and it’s been nothing but love ever since. These people have gone from awkward acquaintances to legit family. After joining the Decay Devils and getting more and more involved, I see things differently. I see buildings reimagined, re-accepted, and re-adored. I see history mixing with the modern, old holding hands with the new, the neglected embraced by vision and love and intention. The Decay Devils give me hope in a world that is quick to shun the old, the unsightly, the underdog.
We see. We know. We have plans.
One of the photos from my first photoshoot with Tyrell - December, 2013
Another image from a photoshoot with Tyrell and Lori - spring 2014
A favorite photo of mine taken on a Decay Devils trip to Boston and Salem, October 2017
A great group shot at the Union Station House Party - October 2018