The Aurora Over Erie

Wait a minute, the Aurora over Lake Erie? You mean the Northern Lights? Near Cleveland? Like, the Northern Lights in the sky? Dude…

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On March 17, 2015 I set out for an adventure with my camera in hopes of witnessing something I have always wanted to see – the Aurora Borealis. Most people in my area remained doubtful that it could even be a possibility to truly see this phenomenon give where we are, but when I heard about this huge solar storm, I prepared for any and every bit of this adventure. The photos I had captured have received some wild attention, from hugely positive, to very angry negativity from those who stick to their belief that something of that nature could not possibly happen over our very own Lake Erie.

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The Kp level, or Geomagnetic Activity level during my viewing began at around 6 Kp, later rising to a level of 7.3 when the light began dancing, showing off in the distance. A lot of people, including myself (even though I personally witnessed it) are still having a hard time imagining that it was viewable to our eyes at the Southern end of Lake Erie. Normally never viewable this far South, especially in such a vivid display, the extreme intensity of the recent solar storm blew that thought straight out of the picture. If someone tells you that something isn’t possible, don’t listen.

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I have been confronted numerous times, being accused of Photoshopping these images. Now, why would I do that? I believe in capturing nature how it is, sharing the beauty that it can display on its own. Of course I know how to use Photoshop, and I am not saying I won’t mess with some photos here and there, but those are completely separate from any of my photo portfolio images, and I will ALWAYS make a special note to say that it is Photoshopped.

It’s so hard for people to understand beauty such as this exists in today’s society because many of us refuse to GET UP and see, learn and experience things. Trust me, I know it’s a wild thought, but nature can produce some magical scenes, all it takes is a bit of adventure to seek them out!

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Below are two photos taken during the night of the aurora, straight from my camera’s screen.

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I kept at it, waiting at the frozen water until I began to see it – great beams of light dropping from the sky, dancing incredibly across stars on the horizon. I’ve never seen something so wonderful, naturally displayed through our skies right before my own eyes. It was amazing to have this chance to witness it on our very own Lake Erie.

I hope that some of these adventures urge people to get up and get out, to see the world and find things they might have never noticed existed even in their very own towns. I hope to inspire people to learn and witness the amazing beauty our world has to offer. Things are always changing, and if you don’t take a moment to see your surroundings, you might miss some really great stuff.

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I’m the type of person who doesn’t care what others might say, I will still reach for what I hope to achieve. I believe that through being a photographer or an artist of any kind, it’s something that you should make sure to practice. Despite people drowning me in a sea of negative input such as “yeah, I doubt you’ll be able to see that over Lake Erie” to “oh, the news said it’s going to be far too cloudy,” I still went for it. It’s not an adventure without possibility of failure.

The Fall of The Falls

DSC07649 On March 14, 2015 plans were set in place to venture into and around the crumbling, forgotten pieces and places of Niagara Falls, New York. When many think of Niagara Falls, what would you believe normally comes to mind? One might imagine a wonderful tourist destination full of life, sights and sounds of rushing water, a vibrant, happy community with so much to offer. If you had visited Niagara Falls, New York in its booming years, you would be correct. Sadly, this once wonderful piece of America’s great collection of family friendly tourism has turned away from happier days, while much falls into a state of disrepair, becoming further and further forgotten beneath crumbling rooftops, flooded hallways and the passing of time. During this adventure, thanks to a wonderful friend of mine, Emily, I was able to learn about the fall of the Falls, and photograph many new subjects. Emily is a wonderful supporter of the arts and without her and her family this trip would not have been as possible or even as amazing as it was, and I thank her so much for giving us the opportunity to do this. She did not take any part in where we went during the project, nor did she tell us anything that we should do, she simply lent us an amazing helping hand through her support of art. I can’t say thank you enough. DSC07454-6 During the first day, just as we arrived, navigating our way up and down the grey, foggy streets, I notice that much of the town surrounding me has become blighted, strewn throughout the hectic maze of everyday life around it. Building after building, street after street, we pass many broken buildings, window panes cracked beneath distorted awnings, collapsing roofs hovering over empty homes now held up only by decay encrusted walls. Warmer weather was finally beginning to sweep through, even if in small bursts. A chilled wind blew softly as the town sat quiet; it was difficult to imagine that this was once a thriving community. I crossed the road walking toward our first location, slipping my way down stairs that had become iced over. Gripping the railing to my right, I held my weight from sliding down the frozen stairs, only to be surprised after making it half way when my feet became submerged under snow where ice had already melted away. My feet were immediately soaked, but that was not going to push me, nor any of us, away from the goal at hand. Mysteries of this location flutter throughout halls and corridors, unknown to those passing by. This building holds a collection of closely guarded secrets hovering eerily over the streets of Niagara Falls.

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Standing in any one of these rooms, it would not be strange to think that you have become lost in a dark and desolate future of life minus people. I felt far too distracted by the beauty of blight, which surrounded me, to a point where I barely gave thought to the fact that the world continued to move normally outside these walls. With the strangely beautiful and wonderfully surreal scenery enclosing me inside of this damp and darkly destroyed space encompassed by decay, it would be hard to imagine otherwise. Each room was lit softly with the outside light as it passed from a bright white overcast sky through fogged glass windows, coated with the hazed effects of water damaged interiors.

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A dark and dreary, rather damp observation room sits empty inside of the former nursing home, while stagnant water covers most of the floor at my feet. An adjacent hallway on one side of the building was used mostly for main traffic of doctors, while the opposite was used for observation, as well as caring for patients that may have been carrying deadly diseases or any other type of sickness that would require doctors to suit up when dealing with treatment. Alternatively, the glass door side may have been used as a simple visitor’s walkway. Many of this building’s hallway railings continue to hold on for dear life while the rest of the structure crumbles and collapses around it. Paint rips itself from walls and the only remaining sounds are that of dripping water falling into beds or to the rotting floors.

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The entire place was littered with rusted remains of bed frames and old equipment, room after room, covered in inches of water in most areas, many floors frozen as icicles hung from the ceilings and bed railings. It appeared as though the nursing home had been shut down for good sometime in the 90s, but nothing is certain as no date information remains that any of us have been able to locate.

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Most of Niagara on the US side now sits a dreary mess, while preservation societies push for revitalization of specific buildings with little to no positive reaction from the city. A collection of structures all sit gathering dust as people continue to pass by paying little mind to what has been left behind.

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Niagara Falls, New York was incorporated as a city on March 17th in the year 1892, when the bill was signed by Roswell P. Flower; then New York State governor. The bill was signed officially on St. Patrick’s Day. During the 1950s through the early 1960s, the town witnessed a large economic boom, while several industries moved into the city looking to harness the fall’s hydroelectric power, which there was plenty of at the time thanks to Nikola Tesla. Not only did Tesla contribute largely to the people’s ability to harness this power, but operated his own workshop right up in town. Now, even Tesla’s former workshop collects dust, tucked away in the shadows, while what remains of the city continues to grow further forgotten, with little to no notice by most.

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Niagara Falls was once a main hub for the production of paper, rubber, plastics, petrochemicals and abrasives, which were the major industries running within the city. It was during the mid-1960s, when the Schoellkopf Power Project collapsed into the Niagara River that the end would begin for this flourishing industrial period. The community would from there on begin to rapidly collapse, bringing the decline of collective communities making up Niagara Falls, New York as a whole. After the 1978 Love Canal incident, the cities fortunes began to fade as several factories closed and the population dropped by half, while many of the blue-collar workers fled to find jobs elsewhere. Love Canal was a contaminated town, where toxins leaked from a chemical waste landfill within the site, forcing United States President Jimmy Carter to declare the area a national disaster, with hundreds of residents relocating.

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This brings us into to the year 2000, Y2K, when a few more pieces would begin falling away from the city’s shaking grip, as it would attempt to hold onto the little industry that was left. The old National Biscuit Company (or Nabisco) factory now sits abandoned in 2015 as it has for years. The company was originally created in 1901, brought to life as the Natural Food Company factory, started by Henry Drushel Perky, who was 58 years old when he came to Niagara Falls to begin his business. In 1908, the factory was renamed to the Shredded Wheat Company, producing mainly shredded wheat biscuits and Triscuits. The company began putting images of Niagara Falls on their boxes this same year. In 1914, the Rainbow Boulevard location would be built, only to eventually become a large industrial shell that many now simply pass by.

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In 1992, the production of shredded wheat was put to an end at the Rainbow Boulevard location. Though this production was halted for good, the company would continue to produce Triscuts until the year 2000, when Kraft purchased the building. Soon after, Kraft would shut this facility down in its entirety in 2001. Once Nabisco moved from their factory, shuttering its doors, this meant that a large chunk of jobs would be dropped from Niagara’s list of employment opportunities, leaving entire families out of work. Shortly followed by this closure, entire streets once home to former Nabisco employees would start to become abandoned as families began fleeing the city in search of different work. After more than 200 workers lost their jobs, this only meant the furthering of a falling economy.

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Population numbers documented in the 2000 census were at 55,510 residents, and only 10 years, a short decade later, the city found its population fallen, sitting at only 50,193. The most recent census was taken in 2013, where the population had fallen even further to 49,468. Current population in 2015 is now slowly dwindling away. DSC07488

With some families relocating beginning as early as the 1950s through mid-1960s, this meant relocation of children as well. Many baby boomers were brought into the world during these years, meaning most families would be taking children with them, leaving a large hole in the numbers attending facilities of the Niagara educational system, bringing a slow movement into closure of some of the city’s educational buildings years later. With not enough students to fill the space, there was simply no need to keep them all active. DSC07470-2

The area becomes illuminated with the glow of city lights as night falls over us, and I stand at the street’s edge, admiring the broken beauty of St. Mary’s Manor. An orange glow beams from streetlights lining sidewalks, giving the building an eerie and ominous appearance. Opening first as a hospital, the former manor now remains no more than a massive, empty shell of memories for those who may have experience life inside its halls. After moving from their old location, many patients were moved into this larger facility. Closed fully in 2004, St. Mary’s has since sat, left to decay under the power of Earth’s elements.

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I walked the ambient lit corridors, meandering up and down each eerie hallway. Wandering in and out of each room, I attempted to find anything that could provide me with further information, or a better glimpse into the building’s history. Making my way towards the lower floors, I was eventually met with the foreboding darkness of a cold main lower floor. Traipsing through the pitch black darkness with only cellphones for light, my friends and I found our way to a former dental office of the facility. Tucked away in artificial night, I examined the ominous room where the dentist chair remained, tools and all, As the building seemingly melted away around us, paint peeling from the dripping walls, the room was turned to a quite surreal and macabre view of an otherwise normal scene. What’s worse than a rusted, rotting and squeaking dentist chair? I’m sure quite a lot of things, but can you imagine having your teeth drilled here? I would not want to find myself in a situation like that.

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With only a few hours before two members of our group had to depart, it was decided that we would at least make a few more quick stops.

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A heart posted on this factory wall reads “I don’t want to become a parking lot.” While people want to see the preservation of a history lost to time and the falling economy, most signs point to a very unlikely restoration as many pass by seeing these spaces as nothing more than a dead factory. Amongst everything that now sit as empty shells, even the Hotel Niagara towers above the streets like a looming reminder of what the town once was. Marilyn Monroe stared in the movie “Niagara,” which was actually filmed partly inside this very hotel. So what else can I say about this city? DSC07631-2

I love it. Venturing these streets you can find the strangest of things.

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I feel that there is so much history, which needs to be seen, heard, examined and saved. Sadly, I feel that those of us who believe the same are left in silence, as we continue to witness the fall of the Falls. DSC07657-5

The Restoration of Mike Tyson’s Abandoned Mansion

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My journeys have taken me to some strange places, ranging from the creepiness of an abandoned lunatic asylum, to the quiet, vast emptiness of a forgotten chapel, but nothing quite like the abandoned home of a former professional boxer. After being arrested here in 2013 it was nice to make a return trip, thankfully not ending in a $280 fine, to finally photograph the very odd forgotten structure of Mike Tyson’s abandoned 1980s mansion.

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Now retired, the once undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson, otherwise known as Iron Mike, still holds a record for being the youngest boxer to win the WBC, WBA and IBF heavyweight titles at only 20 years old. Mike Tyson became a very opulent man, even if for just a moment before spending his money on multiple mansions, drugs and living a wild party-filled lifestyle, which eventually led to him filing bankruptcy in August of 2003.
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In his early years of fame and riches, Tyson decided to purchase a mansion on land in Southington, Ohio, where he lived during the 1980s. To many, this would seem like quite a random placement to build a multimillion-dollar mansion, but it put him not far from one of his trainers. The mansion was decked out with crystal chandeliers, a pool larger than most homes, tiger print carpet and everything else necessary to make it the epitome of a 70s/80s party pad.

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In March of 2011, Tyson appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, speaking of how he had been living a sober and drug free lifestyle for the past two years prior, happy that it has helped improve the quality of his life. Not long after, in August of 2013 he admitted to the public that he had lied about a newfound sobriety and was practically on the verge of death due to alcoholism. Only a few months later, Tyson appeared on Fox News, admitting to finally making progress in a now truly sober lifestyle. Tyson said that he believed being in the company of good people has made him want to turn his life around for the better.

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On a cold winter day, current owners granted me permission to access the property to photograph its current condition of decay and neglect. I was able to speak with them, learning that the house was soon to become a lively church and how they planned to carry out this restoration. As I wandered the halls and rooms of this large vacant space, I could only imagine the wild parties that must have taken place within these walls. There I stood, looking across a living room that was once full of life, but now remains empty of parties, tigers or celebrities. It was odd to think that I was staring down a place the famous Mike Tyson once called home.

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The mansion has sat abandoned for years as multiple individuals have made attempts to purchase and reuse the property, always ending in failure. Finally, come December of 2014 the property was purchased by a church with big plans to bring it a brand new life, now beginning to make big moves toward their vision in 2015. I’ve seen a few restorations throughout my work as a photojournalist, but nothing so contrasting as this, and I can definitely say that I’m excited to document the ongoing restoration throughout the year, seeing it brought back to life.

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The group plans to renovate Tyson’s former home into the “Living Word Sanctuary.” They would even like for Mike to attend the first gathering inside the churches sanctuary. Who knows, maybe this could happen? All I can do is hope to help by sharing this story far and wide, maybe bringing his attention to this matter. It could be quite an experience for him walking through his former home, seeing it brought to a completely different light.

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Why Was Elderwood Abandoned?

One of the most dangerous areas on Cleveland’s east side – to wander here with a camera would be ridiculous, so I had to.

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During the 1990s, one of many larger fires in Cleveland’s history broke out in the center of a once lively neighborhood, destroying buildings and claiming lives. It was said that because of this fire, local community began to collapse, eventually leading to the abandonment of almost everything.

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In its lively years, Elderwood sat beneath a hill in East Cleveland, maintaining the life of a normal, functioning urban block. Children played in the heat of a summer sun, running through sprinklers, laughing while life around them continued as normal as it always had. So what was it that turned this particular disaster into something that people would want to push from their memories? The story of Elderwood is one of a sad history – one of very dark days. This large fire brought the death of family members, while most notably and quite sadly, taking the lives of some very young children. I am not 100 percent positive why the entire neighborhood was abandoned so quickly the way it was instead of initially attempting to rebuild, but I believe it may be a strong possibility that people wanted to completely abandon and bury these terrifying memories, leaving everything behind.

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During early July of 2013, firefighters were called to the scene of a building billowing smoke on the neighborhood street, burning for over 2 hours until finally being taken out by the team. A very short amount of time passed until one more incident had come to the attention of police, when three bodies were found in surrounding buildings, one of them on the second story of an apartment on Elderwood. Since that discovery in July, a bright spotlight has been heavily focused in and around the area where Elderwood Avenue runs through.

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I first explored this quiet block during January of 2014, giving me the chance to capture its emptiness within a cold winter scene. Most of the streets were covered in snow so deep that it was difficult to navigate by walking, let along drive through. The winter, cold temperatures and lack of active people in the area were what allowed me to venture inside, capturing the bleak abandonment through some of the most beautifully austere scenery left behind by wild destruction. I returned during the warmer months of summer, to see just how much had changed, finding myself lost between a world of green life and orange-bricked death. Facing Elderwood, I felt as though I was staring down the center of an urban jungle. Trees pushed wildly from foundations, while overgrowth and foliage sprang freely from walls and sidewalks. I walked these lonely, cracking and cluttered streets, imagining this eerie laughter, like children playing. The air is mostly quiet, with the exception of sporadic clangs and crunches echoing through broken windows. Open doors pour trash into the yards and street as floors just inside some units have collapsed, forcefully pushing destruction outward.

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Nature paints images of the most fascinating grandeur, transforming usual into unusual as fresh Earth pulls from broken foundations, pushes against fragmented walls and reaches through shattered windows. Not only does this give us a unique scene, but an interesting one that could speak not a thousand, but a million words.

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With Cleveland’s population declining, down 20 percent in the last ten years, places like this will simply need to be torn down. We will not gain anything by saying that the area needs to be brought back to life when most of it is beyond the point of restoration and would ultimately do no good, or be of much help to the community, considering not much of the community even remains. It’s a wonderful thought for thriving areas, such as parts of New York or Chicago, both of whom are making great restoration efforts, but places like this need to be removed as they only continue to encourage acts of crime to take place, providing criminals with a dumping ground of sorts.

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Bombardment by fires and vandalism over the years in connection with the high crime rate, from rape to murder, has eventually led to the recent beginning demolition of the area. Very soon we will say our final goodbyes to Elderwood as a whole, and only an empty, flat land will remain where these structures once stood tall. In areas like this, you need to be careful. It’s not simply a “walk in the park, let’s see cool stuff” kind of thing. By putting yourself in a situation like this, you could be severely hurt, robbed, or even killed. More people need to know this, and stop thinking of exploring these areas as some kind of simple game or general activity. There are plenty of cool things to explore that are much safer, be aware of your surroundings and stay safe. It’s ultimately your choice, but I have given you my thoughts.

The Beauty Of Forgotten Countryside Homes

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What leads a family’s decision as they decide to stand up, open their door and walk out, leaving everything behind? Forgotten homes sit scattered across our country like eerie time capsules filled with stories, rotting away under the unforgiving power of nature. What influences some of us in our lives to simply walk away from a place once thriving with so much life and color? Our world is littered with forgotten pieces of former days strewn about, like a shaken container full of Legos, lying brittle, broken and lost. Through photographic documentation, I attempt to search out these locations, uncovering their history and sharing these buried stories, so that they may remain part of our known history. I believe there is a heavy importance in truly seeing what we throw away, bringing attention to the small details of a future gone unplanned.

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Dinner remains, having grown moldy sat atop a now broken, filthy dining room table. The old corded phone still hangs neatly in place, covered in years of dust, neglected by humans. We were here once, but now all seems to have been lost, forever stuck in time.

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Slipping down a long driveway between tall, winding forest surrounding me, I eventually found myself gazing up at broken doors and a collapsed roof, welcoming me inside with an eerie aura as raindrops pitter-pattered the crumbling devastation brought by nature to this once lively abode. As I entered, directly to my left I found quite an insane sight. From one end of the room to the other sat a life’s collection of books, from novels to cook books, short stories and more. It seemed as though the man living here may have been studying medicine, as a good collection of these reference teachings of the medical field. The ceiling had mostly become collapsed under the weight of passing years, from bombardment by the elements bearing down upon it until it finally had given up. I continued to treacherously navigate the warped and broken floors, soft with rain, until reaching a bathroom near back of the hallway. Curtains hung tattered, twisted and dark with mold, resembling something you might see in you favorite horror film. Towels remain neatly placed on their respective hanging bars, untouched by a single human since the 1990s, now collecting dirt and dust with the passing of time. So many signs of human life remain scattered, showcasing how this family lived and who they were. A lonely pair of glasses remains placed above the sink, hanging beside a crumbled and thrashed newspaper, as if that may have been sat down the day all was left.

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Stumbling through the clutter and various pieces left behind, it is exciting to pull everything together, and attempting to recreate a lively scene to truly look into the spirit they left behind. I say spirit, but in this case I am not necessarily referring to a death. What I am referencing is simply my belief, that when so much is left behind, in a way, their complete lives linger here waiting to tell a silent story to the small audience taking time to listen. Witnessing these places, through the silence and emptiness; this makes my mind wander, and I love that about it.

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A mother makes breakfast as the morning sunrise beams over the horizon, crossing a vast and flourishing country field to peak through kitchen windows. A warm, golden haze paints the room, as the smell of bacon and maple syrup coats the fresh wood grain cabinets and vinyl-tiled floor on the inside. Outside, the sun casts heavy shadows among the barns front, and the land lays blanketed in sparkling, prismatic orbs of dew refracting the ambient beams of 7 am sunlight. A flutter of blue jay wings whooshes through branches outside the children’s bedroom windows. They are awoken to life, chirping and peeking in through the glass, and the delicious smell of a warm breakfast climbing the stairs to fill their room. Quickly, they jump out of bed to rush downstairs and join mother and father at the breakfast nook where the family pet, a golden retriever, will join them as well in the begging for table scraps.

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After breakfast, they will join in the living room, where the dog will chew on his bones, the children will play with model airplanes or a board game, and mother and father will sip their coffee while reading the newspaper. In the midst of playing, the children will throw the airplane to the ceiling, watching it soar across the room, and straight into a wall, cracking a small section of paint. Father will then take the model airplane to be fixed, and will leave his newspaper on top of a bookcase that sits beside him. This newspaper will quickly be forgotten, and left on top for years to come.

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Mother always leaves her coffee cup in the same enclave atop the kitchen counter, but some day the family may move along from this spot, so what will happen of this simple coffee mug? What will happen with the model airplane that father never got around to quite fixing?

As we fast-forward a few years, the children have grown older now, and rummaging through some old boxes they happen to find the long lost toy. Seeing as how they are no longer little children, they decide to fix it for themselves. Once fixed, the airplane will be put on a type of display, centered on the dresser of a bedroom. As nighttime now approaches, they will climb into soft, warm beds adorned with intricate carvings throughout the wooden structure and layering of soft, white, cloud-like blankets. A small lamp sets the room to an orange glow while the children, now in their mid-teens wrap themselves in a cocoon of warmth and open the crisp pages of a book. In the morning, everything will start again as it has since they were young.

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Years passed, seasons changed, the children grew older, and parents grew more tired. This once shining, fresh home began to lose its structure, falling to a state of grey from the elements around it, so they began heading towards an upgrade. Around 1985, the family bids a final farewell to their home for a fresh adventure, to settle down in a new dwelling.

The kitchen sits void of life as the morning sun now shines over a colorless, lifeless field as it rises above the horizon, and same as any other morning, pushes itself through the kitchen window. Only now, nobody is present; the room sits quietly, covered in dust. The same golden haze still paints the room as it always has, however all the sun has to light are the musty floors, dusty cabinets, and shiny cobwebs strung over the kitchen sink. Cracks cross along the now fogged window’s view, while the only smell filling the air is that of rotting dilapidation. The scent of bacon hasn’t graced this room in years.

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Outside the upstairs bedroom window, there is a flutter of many wings throughout the now over grown tree, but no children inside are waking. Life peeks through the glass and says hello, but life doesn’t respond back. Nobody is jumping out of beds, and nobody is downstairs waiting in the breakfast nook, other than the occasional raccoon or a family of squirrels who have transformed it into their own little nesting. In this version of time, there is no golden retriever, nor any table scraps to beg for. The living room floor is far too littered with glass and debris to play on anymore, and old newspapers lay scattered from one end to the other. The section of cracked paint that was never repaired now spreads throughout the wall in a spider-webbed effect and the newspaper from 1979 sits atop the bookcase covered in dust. The airplane still sits atop the wooden dresser, painted with must, and decay. A coffee mug is stashed in a collapsed cupboard while chipped fragments of its edges float through the cabinet.

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As night falls on the land, nobody will be crawling into the bed that now sits host to the wetness of rain and decay of summer’s heat. The room will no longer be lit a soft orange, but instead a softer blue from the moons natural and radiant light. The orb way out in the night sky will shine across the sheets and dresser, reflecting off of metallic beads, which lay strewn atop the bed. The crisp pages of books are now tattered and torn, littered about the floorboards, and as the owl hums his nightly tune, the home and the moon wave goodnight to each other. It will all start just the same in the morning, repeating again and again, until someone visits to hear the stories the foundation has to tell. This is exactly what we are doing. We are listening. Can you hear that? Open your eyes, open your mind, and open your ears.

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One can only question themselves as to why they left so many possessions behind, and all we can do is attempt to look through the eyes, heart, and soul through darkness and decay of the once inhabited. And though the eyes are closed shut, while the beating heart of this home has come to a halt, we can still gather a story from the pieces and colors of its remaining soul, telling tales of a lifetime of adventure.

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The balance of nature will always work against what we leave behind, reclaiming it in sporadic and unforgiving ways. Without preserving the things that we have created, we will be left with only a crumbling reminder of what once was and could have been. A prismatic view refined by the aesthetic merging of nature’s rapacious, unforgiving beauty with our architectural craft; an alluring image of how the Earth will always take back what once belonged to it.

A Message From A Guy Who Loves Cats

Being an artist of any sort, you will always have groups of people against you to speak their differing views of how they believe the world should be, and at times how they think that should not include you. I receive many negative comments, continuously for the past 8 years or so of doing what I do. These negative comments have only helped shape me into the artist and person I have become over time.

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I was told by someone just the other day that they would rather kill themselves than read through another one of my awful writings. It must be quite powerful to make you feel that way, yeah? I have to say though, that’s somewhat a ridiculous way of thinking. Sure, I might not be a great writer…but I can’t have someone else account for my personal experience through these places.

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As an artist, no matter who you are or what you do, never take offense from comments like this; use these as a learning experience and motivation to grow.

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If you are going to bash someone for what they do but can’t give creative input and constructive criticism on how you think it should be changed, then keep it out of your mouth. If you can give constructive criticism and both you and the artist agree, the artist can take that and go from there. Alternatively, if the artist does not agree, it is up to them to not implement suggested changes.

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Being an artist, you need to do what makes you feel, and you will always have people that talk down on you because not everybody will understand these emotions you put into your work. Think of some of your favorite music, food, movies, artists…every one of them will have groups that dislike them. So yeah sure, maybe my writing is not the greatest, but it’s my way of documenting life around me. And hey, with negative comments comes even more reason to work harder towards larger goals, so I thank not only my friends, family, all of the amazing people who support me as fans of my work, but those who speak negatively as well! Everything helps along the journey!

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At the end of the day, I always look at anything I have created and try to tell myself how I could have done better, constantly pushing for a greater result than the last, and as an artist this is something you should practice. If we were “perfect” what would there be to improve on? If you thought you did absolutely nothing wrong, where will you go from there? Getting into this habit, when I look at something, if I see nothing wrong with it in my own eyes, I feel that I have done something right.

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So take the negative comments as one of the greatest tools at your disposal and don’t let them get you down! If you are looking to continue in the art world as a life career, you will have books full of hate from those who oppose, trust me. I simply smile at it anymore. :)

So I apologize for the rant, and I hope that I did not annoy anybody, just felt the need to voice some crap. I will soon post a piece about abandoned and forgotten country homes across the Eastern US.

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The Still Silence of a Forgotten Renaissance Faire

Very few explorations make me feel as though a knight might appear at any moment ready to slay dragons before where I stand…in fact, not a single exploration has ever made me feel that way until one of my most recent.

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Stationed on land formerly owned by George Washington’s mother sits the forgotten grounds of Virginia’s Sherwood Forest; a former Renaissance Faire once filled with mead and merriment, now being uncontrollably swallowed back into the Earth with the passing of time. As years slowly creep by, further and heavier damage befalls this strange and serene town stuck in the middle ages. Walking through every separate portion of these former faire grounds delivers a rare feeling, as though I had traveled back in time, was dropped into medieval days and should now be hiding for fear of being burned at the stake, considering the magical soul stealing box always hanging from my neck.

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Through the 1700s, it had become difficult to find a place in Virginia not owned by the Washington family. The Washingtons seemed to own EVERYTHING, including the land that this faire had eventually taken over, now of course being reclaimed by the land itself. The faire was opened during summer of 1996 as a tourist attraction by a company called “Renaissance Entertainment Corporation.” However, after only a few short years of entertainment through the excitement of jousting, massive turkey legs and awkward corsets, strong weather had begun to take a toll on the entire place, eventually turning it into ye olde post-apocalyptic land it hath today become…eth.

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Though I had never taken part in one of the faire’s events, I found myself reminiscing about how the days of merriment spent here must have gone. I stood motionless at the middle amidst a quiet strip of town; rows of crumbling shops stared in at either side of me as I attempted to take in the empty atmosphere of such a bizarre location. I tried envision groups of happy laughing people, skipping along through crowds, dressed in their best faire attire, ready to absorb themselves with life, sights and sounds of the 1700s. I began wandering from my stationary spot, making my way across the crisp brush of overgrowth, pacing slowly from side to side while examining each broken structure that I passed by. It was completely surreal to view something of this genre abandoned. The world around me seemed as if I had been transported into some type of alternate reality. The village continued far into the forest, spanning past strips of shops, bars, even game corners.

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Magnificent Tudor houses, stone castles, amazing arch ways, among other incredible middle age architecture make up this 100+ acre plot of land stretching through the forest. Sat center of it all was a quite an unusual site – a decaying pirate ship. The ship has definitely seen better days, but after years of neglect you can only expect so much. Docked at the water, this was used to provide seating for park guests to relax at the lake, because when you are at a renaissance faire, it is quite necessary that you enjoy moments such as this 1700s pirate–style.

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Once R.E.C. noticed that they were not making a profitable gain, mainly due to large storm activity over the faire, all items deemed important were moved from this park to numerous others that the company owned at different locations, while everything else was left behind like a massive aboveground time capsule. Nearly 16 years have passed since the park’s closure in 1999. Overgrowth has taken root, made its mark and will most likely not be leaving anytime soon. Visiting this place is of ill choice, considering that a hunting club now controls part of the grounds and during hunting season, if you don’t present yourself brightly in an orange vest, I would just hope that you have some practice with dodging a bullet.

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