A dolls’ forest and an abandoned industrial plant: Nic looks for subjects out of the ordinary. He never knows what he’ll snap next. The paramedic and hobby photographer showcases forgotten worlds in his work.
The doll’s forest
Nightfall. A dark forest. Moor, soft earth. My boots sink into the soggy ground. Visibility is low; I’m flying blind. The trees are spindly and barren. The gray sky darkens: Night is here.
A crow is perched atop a branch. It flies off as I approach. I briefly startle. Then I keep walking, heading deeper into the forest.
They are everywhere. Hanging in the trees, lying scattered across the ground. The dolls stare at me. Their gaze is cold, unflinching. I feel shivers down my spine.
And yet, I reach for my camera and start taking the photos I have come here to take. The night grows darker and darker. I switch on my flashlight. The scene looks even more sinister in the artificial light. A very special place.
How do you find “new” abandoned places?
“Keep your eyes open! Whenever I’m out and about, I make sure to stay alert to my environment. I also like to browse aerial photos. Today, you can find the addresses of many abandoned places online, too. I’m not a fan of that – having lots of people visit these places is a net negative. It leads to more and more vandalism. Here’s another important tip: Keep safe! Wear sensible shoes, have your cellphone and flashlight with you and tell somebody where you are going.”
On his blog „Die verlassenen Orte“ Nic regularly reports on his explorations.
Some of the abandoned places that Nic seeks out with his camera have been falling into disrepair for decades. The compact scenes he produces never give away exactly where these ruins stand. Other more recently abandoned sites only give Nic a brief window for urban exploration before they are demolished: He needs to move fast to capture them, but he can also be less secretive. The former rod mill in Duisburg-Hochfeld, which Nic has immortalized with his Canon, is one such place.
Its story began in 1851. Hochfeld is conveniently close to a nearby port, used by freighters to unload iron ore and coke. The area looks back on an eventful history of economic boom and bust, punctuated by bombings and reconstruction efforts. After the Second World War, a defunct smelting works was recommissioned as a rod mill. August Thyssen-Hütte AG acquired the plant in 1955, demolishing two of its five furnaces in 1968 and 1970 respectively, and decommissioning another two in 1982. Only furnace number five, constructed in 1973, remained in operation until 1985. In that year, it fell victim to the excess capacities of the European steel market after a service life of only twelve years. In their 84 years of operation, the five furnaces produced 37 million tons of special crude iron, most of which ended up in Thyssen’s steel mills for further processing.
Duisburg-Hochfeld was a working-class Gründerzeit district with a high density of residential and industrial buildings until the 1970s. The disastrous collapse of heavy industry in the 1970s and 1980s led to the loss of around 20,000 jobs. Duisburg swiftly took action. “As heavy industry gradually moves away from the banks of the Rhine, the city and its economy are taking advantage of the opportunity to transform an industrial area that has been in operation for more than 150 years into a quality site for innovative projects,” the building division announced.
The urban planners’ development objective was to move Duisburg closer to the Rhine. Their RheinPark project sought to reinvent the city as a riverside experience. The 27-hectare area is currently being transformed into a new urban district called RheinOrt. It will provide 4,500 people with living and working space, and the developers hope to encourage companies to set up shop alongside the old industrial facilities. But the rod mill is history – only Nic’s pictures will remain of it.