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Rebecca Litchfield
Rebecca Litchfield

41 Eerie Photos of Abandoned Soviet Buildings

Rebecca Litchfield
Rebecca Litchfield

Rebecca Bathory stepped into her first abandoned building, a Victorian asylum, in 2005. Today she travels the world, taking pictures of broken and forgotten places. For her latest project, she explored the remains of the crumbled Soviet Union and satellite states. The result was the breathtaking collection found in her new book, Soviet Ghosts.

“My aim with the book was to capture the crumbling empire of the former Soviet Union, before it is gone completely. The former USSR was once a thriving place, but with the fall of Communism, buildings now lay derelict, uninhabited, broken shells of a forgotten time. The collapse of the Soviet Union left haunting memories of ordinary people who once lived and worked there.“

"Princess and the Pea" - Russia © Rebecca Bathory

Bathory’s photographs certainly feel like they are inhabited by ghosts. The deteriorating landscape creates an eerie stillness you can feel through the pages.

"Ball Room"- Russia © Rebecca Bathory

"Unsung"- Russia © Rebecca Bathory

Many pictures capture the feeling that everyone disappeared at once. Balls are scattered across a gym floor, lockers and shelves are fully stocked, a jacket and hat hang on a chair. Everywhere, there is evidence of a life long forgotten. These visions provide a stark reminder how abruptly things can end.

Bathory works with a small team of four people, including her husband. She also found locals to help research and locate different areas. The small groups allowed for slipping in and out of buildings quietly and undetected. “The urban explorer motto is 'Leave only footprints, take only photos,'" Bathory explained. "It’s all about respect; respect the building, its history and others who want to take photos of it."

"Waiting Games" - Urkaine© Rebecca Bathory

During one expedition, Russian soldiers apprehended Bathory and her companions. They were taken to a military base nearby where they were questioned and contained for 10 hours.

"Cyrillic" -Bulgaria © Rebecca Bathory

"Freeze" - Bulgaria © Rebecca Bathory

"The Mist" - Bulgaria© Rebecca Bathory

The Buzludzha ideological monument was built in celebration of the Bulgarian Socialist Movement. It took seven years to construct and was finally completed in 1981. It was abandoned after the fall of the USSR. Bathory visited the monument in March 2013. 

“This for me was the most poignant location in the whole journey of Soviet Ghosts. Not only does this photo encapsulate a part of history literally frozen in time, where a Communist empire once thrived. But this photo captures a feeling of desolation and the forgotten, like a memory on a breeze. The mist is ghostly and surreal, which is why I chose it for the cover.”

"Bath House" - Germany© Rebecca Bathory

"Beautiful Dream" - Germany© Rebecca Bathory

"Blue Corridor" - Germany © Rebecca Bathory

"Chemical Reaction" © Rebecca Bathory

"Depart" - Russia© Rebecca Bathory

"DNA" - Estonia © Rebecca Bathory

"Dome" - Germany© Rebecca Bathory

"Live and Learn" - Germany© Rebecca Bathory

"Meeting of Ghosts" - Germany© Rebecca Bathory

"Melancholy Lapse" - Poland © Rebecca Bathory

"Misery" - Czech Republic © Rebecca Bathory

"Operate" - Estonia © Rebecca Bathory

"Out of Tune" - Russia © Rebecca Bathory

"Peace in Pain" - Russia © Rebecca Bathory

"Realm of Dystopia" © Rebecca Bathory

"Red Army" - Germany © Rebecca Bathory

"Room of Ice" - Bulgaria © Rebecca Bathory

"Satellite Centre" - Russia© Rebecca Bathory

"Serenity" - Estonia © Rebecca Bathory

"Skrunda" - Latvia © Rebecca Bathory

"Stained" -Russia © Rebecca Bathory

"Stairway to Heaven" - Germany © Rebecca Bathory

"Steam" - Hungary © Rebecca Bathory

"Take a Seat" - Russia © Rebecca Bathory

"Teplitz" - Germany © Rebecca Bathory

"The Dentist" - Russia © Rebecca Bathory

"The Fall" - Germany © Rebecca Bathory

"The Light at the End" - Latvia © Rebecca Bathory

"The Secret" - Germany © Rebecca Bathory

"The Workout" © Rebecca Bathory

© Rebecca Bathory

"Torpedo" - UK © Rebecca Bathory

"Dissection" - Poland © Rebecca Bathory

Rebecca Bathory is currently working on several new works. Her ongoing project, Underworld, focuses on ethereal models posing in abandoned buildings. It implements mythological and mystic themes with titles like “Semele,” and “Cronus.” She has also recently been awarded a scholarship for a PhD at Roehampton University that will take her around the world to focus on dark tourist spots and the human fascination with the dark and unpleasant. Like her Facebook page here and pre-order her book here. 

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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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presidents
George Washington’s Incredible Hair Routine

America's Founding Fathers had some truly defining locks, but we tend to think of those well-coiffed white curls—with their black ribbon hair ties and perfectly-managed frizz—as being wigs. Not so in the case of the main man himself, George Washington.

As Robert Krulwich reported at National Geographic, a 2010 biography on our first president—Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—reveals that the man “never wore a wig.” In fact, his signature style was simply the result of an elaborately constructed coiffure that far surpasses most morning hair routines, and even some “fancy” hair routines.

The style Washington was sporting was actually a tough look for his day. In the late 18th century, such a hairdo would have been worn by military men.

While the hair itself was all real, the color was not. Washington’s true hue was a reddish brown color, which he powdered in a fashion that’s truly delightful to imagine. George would (likely) don a powdering robe, dip a puff made of silk strips into his powder of choice (there are a few options for what he might have used), bend his head over, and shake the puff out over his scalp in a big cloud.

To achieve the actual ‘do, Washington kept his hair long and would then pull it back into a tight braid or simply tie it at the back. This helped to showcase the forehead, which was very in vogue at the time. On occasion, he—or an attendant—would bunch the slack into a black silk bag at the nape of the neck, perhaps to help protect his clothing from the powder. Then he would fluff the hair on each side of his head to make “wings” and secure the look with pomade or good old natural oils.

To get a better sense of the play-by-play, check out the awesome illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that accompany Krulwich’s post.

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