Kenopsia

I’m often asked what it is about these abandoned, broken and forgotten places that draws myself, as well as others in. Does it draw from a personal feeling? Some part of life, where you have been so trapped in the darkness, feeling so forlorn that you could not imagine there being any bit of light to move toward? Do you connect in some way with the abandonment from experiences in life, through broken relationships, broken homes or simply feel as if you’re falling backwards with every step you take? Have you ever felt so crushed beneath the weight of the world around you, unable to breathe as if the bricks, once structuring your motivation have just caved in on you? Is it something much simpler than that? A historical aspect? It’s hard to ever fully pinpoint or explain.

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The thing is, the attraction to these somber scenes – the strange, emotional draw from standing within the eerie atmosphere of all of these abandoned spaces, or even seeing them visually represented is still a largely unexplained emotion called Kenopsia.

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Kenopsia:
n. the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet—empty playgrounds normally filled with laughter, entire malls once full of life, mansions and homes with nothing left but scattered remnants of how one lived—an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative. – the dictionary of obscure sorrows

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I personally believe that when places like this become absent of life, void of any human interaction, we can become emotionally attached. Can you imagine being left behind; nobody to hug you and tell you it will all be okay? Something as simple as wrapping your fingers between someone’s can express love with a simple gesture of hand and make them feel alright. Imagine nobody to walk side by side with, talk to and stories with. Imagine that you can’t move – and feeling stuck, what can you do? Imagine nobody paying a bit of attention to you; you immediately feel some kind of sadness, don’t you? Most of us witness this sadness, whether it be through seeing someone is this situation, or feeling it ourselves. This is how we connect with that strong imagery – someone screaming out, wanting so badly to be heard but only breaking down further and further – screaming so loud that they eventually fall to pieces, because nobody could care enough.

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Others, like myself have experienced this very sadness. We can draw these emotions from such scenes, but can also see much deeper into that darkness. Like a mosaic, we can take these seemingly broken pieces – these tiny fragments, and collect them into a piece of art, revealing beauty. I have learned that it may be something I just have to deal with – randomly becoming sad, feeling completely empty. These blighted areas serve as some sort of emotional release, where I can feel at peace, discovering the visual representation of my own emotions. It allows me to analyze them, realizing that once I climb, emerging from the broken and bombarded, there is still such a beautiful world on the outside.

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“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” – Maya Angelou

We may not need to fully understand why or how these emotions continue to affect us – just know that it is important to possess them and embrace them. Use them to create. To truly appreciate that light, I feel you must befriend the dark, as well as that eerie emptiness. We all know that birds sing their fucking hearts out for all to hear – they don’t care who’s listening – they just want to sing. We could all take a valuable lesson from this.

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For those feeling sad, broken or alone, I want to share something I always remember when I feel sad – whenever I feel that what I am doing is leading nowhere, and I want so strongly to just give up:

A caterpillar becomes a butterfly simply by not giving up. Even after being completely broken down, it will emerge beautifully and fly to the skies. You got this, don’t ever doubt yourself. Don’t ever give up.

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8 thoughts on “Kenopsia

  1. Great post – this is a question I am asked very frequently..Why do I shoot abandoned places?” – There is no single, simple answer – it is a complex puzzle of feelings and emotions…plus the endorphin rush of finding a place, getting in and getting back out…nothing quite compares.

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  2. Beautifully written. I think perhaps it is a place, like you said, “These blighted areas serve as some sort of emotional release, where I can feel at peace,…” A place where there can suddenly be a balance where the ‘sadness’ of the space can equal the sadness in the heart.
    As well for me it sparks a feeling of wonder. I wonder about the various activities that took place in that space. All the emotion is so heavy. There were good times in that kitchen. Maybe some fights. Some planning and dreaming of the future. Maybe some sex. Image all the lives in that old factory. All the lives that were touched because of the activity in that factory. All the emotion created in the minds and hearts of the theater patrons.
    So much emotion. So much energy. I thank you for sharing it with us.

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  3. I stumbled upon your site tonight and ended up looking at pics and reading your articles for more than eight hours. Absolutely wonderful! I look forward to seeing more in the future!!!

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  4. These places seem so sad – I tend to personify and love ‘rescuing’ abandoned furniture and restoring it. Somehow I think it appreciates what I do for it. I see such lovely things – floor tiles, mantles, glass panes, doors… a shame none of it is re-purposed.

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  5. Lovely and thought provoking. The draw to me of photographing abandonment is in imagining what a place was once was like when it was “alive”. There is also an unnatural beauty and sadness that comes with the experience. I am oftentimes humbled by the destruction of an architectural ruin as it reminds me of how fragile all things truly are. Most of the scenery in abandonedment is completely unlike anything we see as we make our way through our mundane and otherwise ordinary lives. And that to me is what is intriguing…

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