The trend for photographing abandoned and dilapidated buildings, AKA ruin porn, has been indulged in for many years – yet our fascination with the old and forgotten still remains strong. Elena Amabili and Alessandro Calvaresi have tackled the idea in a fresh way by honing in on a single feature of these deserted structures: the walls.
Titled Soviet Innerness the long-term, ongoing project documents the remnants of the Eastern Bloc through peeling wallpaper and crumbled plaster. “During a road trip in Latvia a couple of years ago, we decided to focus on exploring former soviet infrastructures,” say the pair. “We were in Irbene, an abandoned secret city, and while in the living room of a Plattenbau [a pre-fab apartment block], there was this bright yellow wallpaper, which gave us the idea for the series.”
Elena and Alessandro have travelled to multiple countries once under soviet control capturing the decay, rot and emptiness of these neglected interiors. “Like every urban explorer we searched maps, read books, got in touch with locals and even just took a car and drove around,” they say. Depicted in contrastingly neat oblongs, the consistency in the series allows direct comparisons to be made between the different papers.
“Walls always have a story to tell wherever you go. Each time we jump into a rotting place we love to imagine who has been living and working there and how their life could have been,” the photographers say. “They way you decorate the walls where you live says a lot about who you are.”
From intricately patterned wallpaper unfurling and heavily torn to peeling paint that looks almost decorative, the broad range of interiors is fascinating. “We found a soviet trooper had painted his bathroom with a giant monkey brushing its teeth – we couldn’t believe our eyes when we came across that!” These Soviet aesthetics create a faint picture of what domestic life might have been during that time. By depicting what’s left, their pair preserve the memories made in those spaces even further. “We love to think about our project as a documentation from the ‘inside’ of the Eastern Bloc,” says Elena and Alessandro.
About the Author
Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.