I’ve always liked the idea of a photo shoot of people dressed fancily in a crumbling building. I guess I just like the contrast between old and new. There’s also an element of exploration and curiosity. I never actually did shoot the idea, mostly because the building that first made me dream of this look is inaccessible.

Then I discovered a bridge near where I live that has access to the underside. Underneath I discovered what looks like an ancient ballroom, at least in my imagination. Once I saw that location, I began forming my photo project for the year:

Abandoned Project. 10 different models, 10 separate looks, 10 abandoned locations.

Read on to see all the looks, the fictional literary sketches I wrote to pair with them, and behind-the-scenes fun facts about each shot.

Model Lacey Torayo  Makeup by Kelsey Mishler

Model Lacey Torayo

Makeup by Kelsey Mishler

Look One: The Ballroom

Her “Hello?” was still echoing around the building when she looked up and noted that the chandelier was still alight from the night before. That was kind of amazing considering the decrepit state of everything else around her. Last night she had gone to a party and now she had awoken…100 years later? Or maybe she was still asleep and dreaming? She didn’t know. She would try to find her way home somehow. Maybe she would come across someone to help her, although that didn’t seem likely. Everything was just so completely…abandoned.

This shot is under the bridge that solidified my project idea. After the shoot I added in the chandelier and moved her up so that the arch wasn’t too much taller than her. I’m so grateful to Lacey for being my model when the model I had planned for needed to cancel. I love the way it turned out even though pretty much everything that day did not go according to plan!

Model Nicol Romanivna

Model Nicol Romanivna

Look Two: The Private Room

She hadn’t wanted to stay so long at the party but once she was there, she found herself enjoying the festivities She remembered dancing, bright lights, and bubbly drinks. She met interesting people and told stories of her childhood. When she was finally exhausted, she happened upon a quiet room with a small cozy couch. This seemed better than finding her way home. She would just rest for an hour or so. The party would probably still be going on even after that. However, when she woke she was hit with silence. Silence, spiderwebs, and dust. What had happened while she slept? The shining mansion from the night before now seemed abandoned. She wanted to walk out of the room and find some answers. But that first step just seemed impossible.

Everything in this shot happened because of my family. When I told my Grandmama about the project, she offered the old schoolhouse in her backyard for a location. My mom made the dress years ago, which I wore as a bridesmaid in my sisters’ wedding. I was leaving the day after I realized I wanted to do this photo shoot, but my friend was available to model for me so we did a quick shoot and then I drove home for seven hours! It was crazy and awesome. I absolutely love the way the light was coming into the door way of the schoolhouse. Dreamy!

Model Geraldine Boni

Model Geraldine Boni

Look Three: Impatience in the Alley

She waited in the alley, just listening. There was no echo of footsteps. No chirp of birds. No rumble of engines or clatter of train tracks. Was it only one night before when the city was alive? When had she seen the glittering lights and be pushed by so many strangers in the street? Surely the walls of the grand hotel she was staying at had not crumbled and decayed in only a night’s time. She was regretting even coming to this city and now how was she supposed to get home?

This location is at the back of a building I passed by every day in the summer. It looks very modern from the front because three sides of the building are painted gray, but one day I happened to see the back of the building and oh my goodness! It is such a collection of different textures. I am in love with the warm browns and cool gray neutrals against the soft blue of her dress.

Model Naly Prachansithi

Model Naly Prachansithi

Look Four: The Lost Royal

When she first arrived to her venue the day before, this mountain was young. The trees were undeveloped, the grass only small sprouts underfoot. It was the perfect setting for a May Day picnic, which she had planned. The princess always planned the May Day festival. And it had gone beautifully. A day of sunshine, laughter, and dancing. Peasants mingling with the nobles. As the forest grew dark people trickled home. The princess searched around for her attendants, but none could be found. The forest was eerily quiet. Annoyed, she wandered back towards her castle and on the way stopped to rest in a soft patch of grass. It had been quite a tiring day. When she finally stirred awake, it was light but she couldn’t say with certainty that it was the next morning. For the trees around her had doubled and tripled in size. The very grass that was her makeshift mattress had grown as tall as she. But there, in the distance she could see her home. Finally! But her relief was short lived when she reached it. Her pristine castle was now an abandoned pile of crumbling stone. But being inside it was somehow still more comforting than wandering openly in the woods. She peeked out to listen for sounds of life. Maybe some birds or a babe crying. Yet she heard only her own heartbeat pounding in her ears... you’re alone... you’re alone... you’re alone...

When I was planning this project, Naly was one of the first models I talked to. She claimed the crown right away so I knew her look was going to have all the lovely fantasy vibes. Our location was in Forest Park in Portland. This structure was perfect for an old castle look. I love that the graffiti some dissonance and Naly is the perfect lost princess!

Model Rachel Perry

Model Rachel Perry

Look Five: Dancing until Darkness

It had been a full day yet it was still all a big nothing. She had woken up in the garden feeling very confused. It looked different during the party. Her friend had invited her. It was all twinkle lights. A table piled with food. The blink of glasses with fancy drinks. People dancing and laughing. She hadn’t known many other guests but everyone was friendly. In the cozy garden even strangers had seemed familiar. But then she inexplicably woke up covered in dew. The food was gone, the lights burned out, the garden silent. There were no other guests, or even insects. No birds chirped in the trees. No rabbits munched on clovers. She had been searching all day. Looking for answers, for clues. And so far she found nothing. As far as she could tell, she was the last alive thing on earth. Now night was coming and she was trying to decide which was more terrifying: being found by a creature in the darkness or truly being alone and abandoned...

Rachel is an old family friend, she’s the only person in my project so far who isn’t a model. She is SUPER photogenic and I had so much fun with her look! We went to a beautiful garden in Portland and found several different interesting staircases to pose by. Thanks Rachel!

Model Clara Charmak

Model Clara Charmak

Look Six: The Echoing Staircase

She paused and looked up at the sky. Was that a sound? Perhaps it was a bird. If so it would be the first sign of other life in eight hours. The stairway to her house at the top of the hill had never seemed so long. And what would she find when she reached the top? Would her loving family be waiting? Or was she honestly the only person left? Yesterday the world had been fully alive. When she came down the hill to go into town there were insects buzzing, deer grazing and other travelers to greet her. Now for the journey back it seemed the whole world had abandoned her.

This look is at my favorite spot on the Willamette River! It’s so lush; there’s a waterfall, there’s an island, it’s amazing. This picture was taken at a really long wooden staircase. Clara is an amazing model and really everything just came together perfectly for this look which never happens!


Stay tuned, four more looks are coming!