Abandoned buildings often have a strange aura about them. For UK photographer Reuben Wu, abandoned places are a subject he just can’t get enough of. Some of the places Wu has trekked to include observatories in Chile’s Atacama Desert, Nazi coastal forts built along western Europe and Scandinavia between 1942-1945 and the arctic archipelago of Svalbard.
Svalbard is located a long way off the coast of Norway. This place is mostly uninhabited with traces of temporary settlements left from centuries past. There is however, a few hundred scientists residing in the main permanent settlement of Longyearbyen. How could a photographer like Wu resist?
As a member of a band called ‘Ladytron’ and a DJ, Wu has had the opportunity to tour to many unique places. Over time, Wu has developed a certain fascination with forgotten places where humans no longer belong. He told Gizmodo:
“On my travels I’ve been spoilt by the amount of stuff I’ve been able to see [...] And over the years I have become more and more attracted to the dark and hidden things which most people have forgotten about, yet have their own aura of history and identity.”
During his time on Svalbard Wu visited the Seed Vault, a bunker where scientists have collected 4.5 million seed samples that can be used to repopulate plant species if anything bad ever happens to them. He also visited an old Soviet village, called Pyramiden, that has been abandoned for 15 years. Frozen in time, researchers say it is so cold in Svalbard that the buildings won’t decay for at least 500 years.
“Humans don’t belong there and they can’t survive without huge effort,” Wu said. “I found that I had stopped thinking about life at home and had become completely absorbed by the environment – a bizarre sensory deprivation where I became unable to judge the existence of anything apart from the shape of my travelling companion in front of me.”
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