Born in West Germany, Christian Richter observed how buildings were left unattended and abandoned after the German Reunification in 1989. Travelling about, he began documenting these places with his camera, developing a certain fondness for derelict buildings that had fallen into irreversible disrepair. Since then he has been photographing factories, chapels, churches, ballrooms, pools, hospitals, theatres and a great number of other places that were abandoned for a mix of known and unknown reasons. Over the past ten years Richter has been visiting about 1000 buildings throughout Europe, finding his way through windows, cellar holes, over fences or through cracks. A couple of these travels ended up unfortunate, as he couldn’t enter the building or figured it had been torn down completely. „It’s like hitting the jackpot, but there’s a lot of work behind it, he reveals.“ Beautiful and sad at the same time, his images remind us that at some point everything decays. For more check out the interview below and visit his website www.richterchristian.com.
How did your photographic career start?
I grew up in the old GDR (German Democratic Republic). After the reunification of Germany, there were a lot of old buildings left behind that I used to explore without a camera. Years later, a friend of mine gave me a gift – an old small digicam, as he bought himself a new one. This is when I fell in love with photographing old buildings. After some initial mistakes, I bought a tripod and started exploring a whole new level of photography in October 2011.
Most of the time the buildings are empty. I rarely find a place with a nice staircase or some interior inside. It’s really hard to find those places and I’ve been visiting a lot of them, and I really mean a lot of buildings in order to find a great place that’s worth a photo. Over the years I developed a network of friends who sometimes helped me. I simply adore old decaying architecture, their patterns and textures – they remind me that everything is impermanent. I keep the locations secret to stop vandals damaging them, as a lot of these places have been destroyed after the publication online.
Abandoned photography is my ongoing project and I am travelling around Europe in search for more abandoned buildings. Most of the pictures are taken with a 5D MK2 and a wide angle lens 16-35 L 2.8 II mm. Many of the shots are 5 frame HDR photos that have been slightly processed in Lightroom and Photoshop.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your way of thinking?
At the beginning of my photographic career I think it was Cole Thompson whose work really inspired me. He definitely influenced my view of long exposure and landscape photography.
What was your favourite project and why?
I love both the abandoned (more hard) locations and the landscapes (more soft) shots. The contrast is amazing, that’s why I keep switching between both.
How do you define creativity?
Creativity is when you see or do something so focused on it, that you forget the rest of the world to be creative.
If you had one advice for someone seeking to live a creative life, what would you tell him?
Enjoy your life, even if it’s hard and be happy with the small things like a warm tea in the morning or a nice light in the sky. When you make these first small steps, the rest will come.
Do you have a favourite quote that describes what you truly believe in?
Collect moments not things.
What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your career as a photographer?
Making a regular income.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at 21?
Nothing. Everything takes place at the right time. If I didn’t make those mistakes at the age of 21, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Is there anything for which you would be ready to give up your passion for photography?
No. I spent a lot of time to learn the technique and processing of images. Now photography gives me the time back to see amazing places in the world.