I have had an interest in abandoned buildings since I was a kid. It was fun to get inside them and being scared of the unknown. As a photographer, I enjoy capturing these structures as if they where abstract sculptures with their different textures, twisted shapes and bleeding colors, victims of the elements. Shooting nudes has always been a rewarding venture capturing the essence and soul of the person without creating just another glamour shot. The idea of combining both subject matters made sense to me. It has become my most personnel and gratifying work to date. Photographing nudes in officially forbidden abandoned settings adds stunning visual contrast, urgency and thematic power to the exhibit. Posing models inside and around architectural ruins is not a new idea, but I think my work respectfully modernizes a beautiful old-world motif.
A common theme among paintings of Greek mythology nymphs in a setting of ancient ruins is of renewal and rebirth. I like the idea of adding a sense of renewal and hope to an abandoned setting that would otherwise be rather dismal and forgotten. I am also fascinated with the contrast it creates with the smooth, graceful curvature lines of the female nude form against the harsh textures and jagged lines of the decaying structures. The beauty and gracefulness of the models is exaggerated against these abandoned structures to a point where the reverse happens and the structures begin to reveal their own hidden beauty. The models also add simplicity in contrast to the very busy and complex backdrops. I want to evoke interest and curiosity throughout the entire image as both subject matters compete for your attention. The combination creates a refreshing mood, a renewal within itself.
It’s always unpredictable when I show up to these locations for the first time. How close can I get? Will weirdoes or police show up? Snakes, a pack of wild dogs? Will I be able to get inside?
I sure as hell hope so because it took 8 hours of driving to get here. I never really know. The abandoned light; the portrait. That’s the goal; that’s the thrill. Beautiful women in these ruins–nude ruins–some in the middle of a city, others in the middle of nowhere. They are my studios.
The rent is free.
John Stekl is an Austin based Fine Art photographer. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Journalism from Boston University and has worked as a photojournalist for various publications in Southern California and Boston. He has shown his work at various venues in Austin including SXSW and the East Austin Studio Tour. His work has also been exhibited at: Erotic Art Events in San Francisco, 2014, 16, 17. Seattle Erotic Art Festival, 2014, Photo Independent, Hollywood, 2015. ArtUndressed, Miami, 2017. 12" of Sin, Las Vegas, 2017.