Beauty in ruins: the wonder of abandoned buildings a photo essay

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From a derelict Sydney power station to an elegantly decaying Japanese hotel, Brett Patman shares a selection of his Lost Collective images

It was like hell on earth; everything coated in red dust and rust. The noise was immense, with steam and chemicals belching from all over at one point I walked into a cloud of ammonia without a respirator. It was a massive nickel refinery and I was there to help shut it down.

Id started my career as an apprentice fitter and turner in a hot and dirty workshop in the north Queensland city of Townsville. It was such a shit job every day was stinking hot and we were working on heavy machinery smeared with grease, chemicals or both. But I wanted a trade to fall back on so felt compelled to stick it out. The nickel refinery was one of my first onsite jobs and one Ill never forget.

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  • Clockwise from top: Eveleigh paint shop, Kandos cement works, womens wards at Callan Park

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Yet unpleasant as it was, I found the sight of this hulking mass of steelwork impressive, and the process of refining metals fascinating. Often Id find myself looking at the machines and architecture and challenging myself to find one single object designed purely for aesthetics.

Craftsmanship made way for efficiency in engineering long before Id even left school. Nothing in an industrial setting is intended to look good. But I did pick out certain details the coloured metal swarf debris, a freshly milled piece of steel with perfectly parallel iridescent tool marks across its surface.

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  • Waterfall sanatorium; below: Terminus hotel, Pyrmont

Fast forward a decade or so and my work took me to many more places like this power stations, mines, paper mills, foundries, chemical plants, food production facilities, cigarette factories and even a crematorium. It wasnt until the advent of camera phones that I could show friends just how impressive some of these places are.


In 2011 I was working as a service technician for an air compressor company when I met a colleague who was a keen amateur photographer. I had a little Sony Cyber-Shot that Id played with in the early 2000s but a proper DSLR was always going to have much more potential.

So, after consulting my workmate, I bought a Nikon D7000 and a 24-70 f2.8 lens and ventured out to shoot the usual suspects: run-of-the-mill cityscapes, graffiti-filled laneways and coloured beach huts. It began to feel very unfulfilling very quickly.

One day I stopped at a vast abandoned factory I passed on my way home from work. There was a long section of fence missing.

I wandered in, camera in hand, and that moment was the unofficial beginning of Lost Collective.

Theres this sense of wonder you get when looking at abandoned buildings. You try to imagine what these spaces were like when they were filled with busy workers trying to meet production targets. And why did they close?

A few years later our family moved from Melbourne back to Sydney and, alongside a stint as a stay-at-home dad, I began photographing more New South Wales locations. Yet it wasnt until I sought access to the derelict White Bay power station that I first imagined I could turn this hobby into a full-time job.

This heritage-listed site in central Sydney is something a holy grail for people who do what I do, given the limited access to it and the potential for high-quality compositions in the expansive and well-preserved spaces within.

I decided my images of it needed historical context. This couldnt be another pointless Facebook post with no background information that only my friends would see. So I built a website and called it Lost Collective.


  • The boiler house at White Bay

Its been well received. Im often contacted by people who used to frequent the places I photographed. They share stories that enter the collections as additions or corrections. Sometimes they send their own photos from the same viewpoints, taken decades earlier. Some send memorabilia, engineering drawings or documents from the organisation that ran the site. Connecting with them, Lost Collective uncovers all these personal histories that would otherwise be lost to time. This has become such an important part of the project.

One of my goals is to compile this information into a book.

It can be challenging to find places to shoot in Sydney anything vacant seems to be replaced by apartments or a freeway within weeks so in 2016 I travelled to Japan photographing haikyo, or ruins. These are some of my best works to date. About this time it was becoming a challenge to juggle Lost Collective with my full-time job, so I decided to plunge into the unknown and see where the winds would take me.

Original Article : HERE ; The Ultimate Survival Food: The Lost Ways