So, how did I become a Decay Devil? The short and simple answer is: Facebook. But the full story goes back to my childhood in New York City and Chicago, and my lifelong love of abandoned buildings, trains, and photography.
My grandfather used to take me all over New York City in the 1970’s. Like most major cities in America at that time, NYC was a disaster. But as we walked through the drug, porn, and crime-infested Times Square, my grandfather would tell me how beautiful these old, crumbling buildings were back in his day. I started to see the craftsmanship and beauty of these massive stone buildings, and began to view them in a different light.
Several of my family members worked for the Transit Authority. My grandfather let me ride with him in the front car of the NYC subway train, teaching me how the signal system worked and what the signage meant. When I was teenager, my father got a job with Amtrak. I loved taking the train from Chicago to New York City. I didn’t realize at the time that the Amtrak Broadway Limited ran through the Rust Belt (Gary, Toledo, Cleveland, Erie, Youngstown, and Pittsburgh). The tracks always ran through the decaying and industrial parts of those cities. I loved to look out the window, awestruck by the size and magnificence of these grand old factories.
I’ve been taking pictures since I was about 10 years old. I started with a Sears Instamatic 110 film cartridge camera. Fast forward to the summer of 2016, when I was photographing with much more modern equipment. I met Wayne Thomas Abell, my first connection to the Decay Devils, while taking photographs at the Hammond Art Walk in Hammond, Indiana.
About a year later, Wayne posted on Facebook that he was going to paint a mural at the abandoned Union Station in Gary (part of the Decay Devils’ plan to revitalize the structure). Curious, I checked out the Decay Devils’ Facebook page and website. They were a group of artists, mostly photographers, who have been exploring and photographing abandoned buildings for years. When I saw that they were also attempting to restore an old train station, I signed up to become a member right away. A few hours later, Lori called me to introduce herself and offered me the opportunity to help the group pull weeds and lay bricks at Union Station the next day. Of course I stepped in to help, and I’ve been proud to be a Decay Devil ever since.
Wayne Thomas Abell’s Painting (7/23/17)
We spent the morning filling in gaps with bricks we found all over the lot (7/29/17)
We removed all the invasive plants and replaced them with native plants (7/29/17)
Union Station’s Rebirth Party (8/12/17)
An overall look at Union Station (8/12/17)
Enjoying Union Station (8/12/17)