Lucky number 7! And for us it really is a stroke of good fortune to be able to introduce a photographer who we have admired for many years; and now his amazing work features here on Take 5, submission number seven.
With this introduction I feel I have to explain a little why we contacted Romany WG, and how his photography inspired me to take up photography, and immerse myself on a journey into the world of art in the street.
In 2010 I moved from East Anglia in the UK, from the county of Norfolk to the big smoke of London. I'd maybe left it 20 years too late in my life. London was a city I'd always loved to visit, and dreamed of living in, but it had taken me an age to make the transition. I met my girlfriend in the urban metropolis of Shoreditch, East London at the art fair Moniker; she was an art gallery assistant in the West End, and it was partly her enthusiasm for art and her guidance that flicked a switch, to light up a sub culture, that I never knew existed.
I had no clue or knowledge about art to be honest, and had definitely not been exposed to street art. I grew up in the city of Norwich, it had a history of hip hop culture in the 80's early 90's, when I was at school, and graffiti was present in small fragments of the city. I'd drawn loads when I was a kid but that was about it, having a short attention span and always finding other things to consume me. This lack of appreciation for art changed drastically after visiting London and discovering an evolving art form, in a gallery environment at the Moniker exhibition. I felt I'd found something very special, my eyes were opened to something I soon began to fall in love with, art on the streets. In my free time I'd visit Brick Lane, and the surrounding areas, getting lost in streets and alleys using a borrowed camera, which I had no idea how to use properly. I'd capture every single piece of art I'd come across, having no idea how it got there, who put it there, what it meant, but these creations soon tapped into something inside my mind, a curiosity that had remained dormant until that moment.
In the last six years I've immersed myself deeper into this creative culture, self taught my way around a camera, met new people, creative people and made new friends in a fast moving city. It was the fast track of dragging myself through these streets, digesting every bit of written and visual reference that I'm here today, founding a project based around this sub culture, allowing this creative art form to be the voice of the projects awareness. The project is now built from inspiring, creative individuals from all walks of life. One of these inspiring people is photographer Romany WG.
In 2011, whilst working my way through the Waterstones Art & Design bookcase I purchased his self published book 'Out Of Sight'. This book took the art of street art photography to a new level, an art form within an art form. The artwork was captured in abandoned spaces, and with the use of natural light, combined with exquisite composition it made for some amazing photographs. In 2011 Romany WG hosted a joint exhibition with French stencil artist Christian Guemy aka C215 called 'Border Line'. Sadly I missed the book signing that evening, but fortunately for me, my girlfriend attended, and the signed book remains a treasured item in my reference collection. When we started this feature Romany WG's name was very high up the list, and after making contact with him, and his agreement to take part, we were very excited to see which five images he'd choose from his vast portfolio. We hope that you enjoy them as much as us, and choose to delve deeper after viewing, his Flickr page is one of splendor. Enjoy!
Romany WG is a one-off in the world of photography – a visionary artist taking images in extreme, unique and beautiful places. He studied fine art and became a feature film editor, before seriously turning to exploring abandoned places in 2008. Since then Romany WG has been at the forefront of the underground community of Urban exploration or ‘Urbex’.
His underground legendary Urbex status was confirmed when he published a collective book, ‘Beauty in Decay’, in which 49 international Urbex photographers show the best of their work. He followed this with ‘Out of Sight’ which displays a collection of his most beautiful images of street art found in abandoned places across Europe. ‘Altered Images’ focuses on emerging contemporary artists working at the cutting edge of post-production image creativity today and ‘Burn After Reading’ showcases the very best street art and graffiti. His latest book was “Beauty in Decay ll’ a follow up to the first volume with 192 pages of his own photographs.
ALL IS NOT LOST has been five years in the making and elevates Romany WG’s work to a new level. Working with a select group of extraordinarily fearless models, his photographs capture a different kind of beauty in abandoned buildings. These are poses of passion, strength, softness, sometimes humour. Women whose beauty works both in contrast and harmony to backdrops of forgotten industry, dying chateaus, decrepit hospitals, raw nature. These exceptional and moving photographs of female beauty and power distil the essence of defiance against the ravages of time and open a new chapter in Urbex photography.
'Best Ever' (Above)
I started to take pictures of graffiti and street art around 10 years ago but all that changed when the 2 man 'Best Ever' Crew asked me to go and look at an abandoned asylum near to me as they wanted somewhere fresh to paint. Well to cut a long story short, that first visit it was snowing and as I walked around the decaying buildings I was caught by the security and led off the premises, I hadn't even managed to gain entry but saw enough through the broken windows that I had to come back. Well I did return and over 30 times, and even in that time I still didn't see the whole of this vast victorian site. On one of my many returns I did go with the Neil and Hadley (Best Ever) and they painted the piece in the first photograph. I like that they obviously gave it some thought as for the placement and it has a hauntingly beautiful quality about it. The asylum has now been turned into apartments.
The only other crew I took to the abandoned asylum was Cyclops and Sweet Toof of the Burning Candy crew. This piece caused quite a lot of controversy at the time. Urban Explorers, of which I was one, took exception to graffiti and street artists painting their beloved and decaying walls but we deliberately chose a wall that had probably never been photographed and never would! But a few explorers came into the room as they were painting and I was filming the event. On our exit someone had tried to block our passage and the very same day someone went back with a tin of white paint and buffed the whole wall. A certain amount of Urban Explorers seem to think they and no one else should be in these places but as I always say, they have as much right to be in these locations as anyone does, which is no right at all!
By the time I took this picture in 2011, which in my opinion is one of the very best uses of the space and something that more and more artists were doing these days, I had been photographing art in abandoned places for a couple of years and had decided to compile a book of all my photographs. This road trip I travelled to Angouleme to photograph Vilks work, Barcelona to meet up with Aryz, Milan to photograph reFRESHink and Seacreative and Iemza in Lille on the way back to the UK. 'Out of Sight' Urban Art Abandoned Places came out late 2011 and every coffee table needs this book! ;)
In late 2011 I moved on again from photographing abandoned buildings to photographing models in decay. This is one of my early pictures and a favourite of mine. Taken on a freezing day in March 2013 in an abandoned Cooling Tower in Belgium. My son it actually behind the model holding onto the ladder that she is on, if she fell back there was a 40 foot drop into the core of the cooling tower and no way of getting them out alive. The things you do for a shot eh!? We were lucky, if you call it that, as it started to snow as we started to shoot. One small point. I don't use photoshop at all and only ever natural light.
'All Is Not Lost'
I have just published my 6th photography book, this one is a large coffee table book of models in these incredible abandoned places. Again this shot was taken in the Abandoned Cooling Tower in Belgium and the town has the unfortunate billing (because of the Industrial wastelands here) of being the 'Ugliest city in the world'.