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Adventures in abandoned places

Belgium Photography

Reginald Van de Velde works as a graphic designer in an advertising agency and has a passion for photography and travel. He combined those passions in his book Between Nowhere & Never, with photographs of abandoned, forgotten and withered places everywhere in the world. Adventure is always lurking around the corner in the images. 


Why do empty, desolate places fascinate you so?

‘I grew up in Sint-Martens-Latem near Ghent, where there are many empty castles. I spent my youth playing in those castles and started photographing them when I was around fourteen years old. My love of forgotten places is a very personal thing: it has to do with escapism. I believe we live in a very chaotic world with a lot of stress and hassle – not in the least in the advertising business – and those abandoned places give me peace. The notion of time is different there and I like hanging around there. I do thorough research on the Internet and look for places via Google Earth and Google Street View.’


Which photographs required a great deal of inventiveness or adventurousness?

‘The photograph of the underground cistern in London, dating back to the Victorian age, brings back to mind particularly adventurous memories. It is a gigantic complex underneath the city that you can only reach via a small lid in a field of grass. We – two friends and I – wanted to photograph the place at night in order to attract as little attention as possible. While we were walking in the dark through the park, which was closed for the night, we saw somebody smoke a cigarette. It turned out that there was a camp made by homeless people there. It was very estranging to see how our two worlds came together for a very brief moment, but how we also respected each other’s plans and privacy at the same time.’

Between nowhere & never


‘The pictures of the communist monument in Bulgaria, some sort of UFO on a mountain, were also taken in extraordinary circumstances. Ever since the Berlin Wall fell, the monument – which was used as a place to propagandize communism – has been deserted and neglected. I really wanted to make pictures there in wintertime: I wanted to capture the monument in the snow. Reaching the monument was extremely difficult: we drove as far as we could in a four-wheel drive, then hiked on foot for forty more minutes to ultimately reach our destination. We had brought snow-shoes, but the hike went through a white hell of -15°C. Our arrival was a fantastic moment.’ 

Between nowhere & never


‘I also cherish the photographs of a deserted psychiatric hospital, a rare find in a place I would rather keep to myself. There hadn’t been a living soul there in five or six years and I didn’t know if the location would be worthwhile. I just went there to screen it. It was late when I arrived on the domain. Everywhere I went I saw possessions of homeless people and gipsies and I was a bit suspicious. With a little flashlight and a great deal of fear, I started to wander around the hospital. I was convinced that I would bump into somebody. But I didn’t see anybody and in the meantime I had discovered the most majestic marble stairwell I had ever seen. The next day I went back to quietly shoot some images in daylight.’ 

Between nowhere & never


All images by Reginald Van de Velde