We’ve spent countless hours tracking down and exploring abandoned places; from asylums, prisons and Victorian houses, to Cold War missile bases and derelict mansions from the Gilded Age. By and large, most of these places have been stripped bare, leaving only a decaying shell of a building which once teemed with life. Which is why when we came across Bryan Sansivero’s urban exploration photography, we were immediately captivated; for most of his work shows abandoned rooms still filled with forgotten objects.
Antique sewing machines, faded Edwardian studio portraits, vases of flowers, worn and loved children’s toys, elegant player pianos and discarded silk clothing create enchanting still lifes, making it seem as though the people living there have simply disappeared. For this edition of the Fellow Explorer’s Club, we caught up with Sansivero, and followed his journey into capturing a forgotten world left behind.
Society for Gentlemen Explorers (SGE): Firstly, your Instagram account is called St. Severus. Is that named for St Severus of Antioch? If so, is there anything behind that?
Bryan Sansivero (BS): No actually, there’s really nothing behind that besides that it sounds like my last name. I didn’t just want to use my name as my handle. I actually consider myself a fashion photographer first and that’s where I use my name.
SGE: I was just looking through the American decay photographs on your website, www.bryansansivero.com which are brilliant. We come across lots of abandoned photography but none seem to have as much left behind items as yours do. Does it make it much harder to find places that still have lots of artifacts in them?
BS: You would be surprised how many abandoned places have stuff left behind. I would say more than anything it’s harder finding one that has good light, and room to photograph. A lot of houses are boarded up with things just thrown inside and there is no room to even walk. So, finding the right house with all of these elements coming together is the challenge.
SGE: How do you go about finding places to photograph? Is it a case of researching online, or simply driving and walking about?
BS: Definitely not walking! A lot of what I find is just from driving around but a good amount is from friends and fellow urban explorers that give me some inside info.
SGE: What was it that first drew you to abandoned places?
BS: I grew up near Kings Park Psychiatric Center on Long Island, NY. It was always this mysterious place that I felt drawn to. After working on a documentary on the hospital called “Shadows of Kings Park,” I really started to become interested in other abandoned places.
SGE: Do you have a particular area you like to photograph, or are you all over the place?
BS: Mostly just the east coast. However, I’ve traveled all over the States, and overseas a few times to photograph places.
SGE: What’s been the favourite place you’ve discovered?
BS: I discovered this amazing abandoned mansion in upstate New York. It had cathedral high ceilings in a room with a grand piano. There were dozens of rooms, beautiful chandeliers. gargoyle stone accents, and numerous fireplaces. Every room was absolutely stunning with it’s pastel peeling paint. It has since been vandalized and looted and I refuse to go back.
SGE: Is there somewhere top of your list for places to go find?
BS: I would love to see Chernobyl. I feel like that’s on the top of a lot of urban explorers list. I’ve also seen pictures of some amazing abandoned places in Japan, I definitely would love to explore there.
SGE: What is about abandoned places that you like?
BS: I like the unknown. I like not knowing what will be inside and what kind of photographs I may get. I also love the history. Anything that feels like a moment in time that has been preserved I really love.
There you have it! Our thanks to Bryan Sansivero for sharing his thoughts and work for this edition of the Fellow Explorer’s Club. You can find lots of abandoned exploration photography pretty easily on Instagram, but you’d be hard pressed to find many that are as well composed, and beautiful as his.