Photographer Brian Douglas is a teller of stories who uses his camera to tell stories of the past. “Photography can preserve and document spaces and objects that people might not have the opportunity to explore,” says Brian. As an urbex (urban exploration) photographer, his personal photography projects focus on urban decay—photos of abandoned homes, factories or even neglected pianos. It’s the emptiness and disrepair of these spaces and objects that strike him most, and he says, “Through photography, I try to bring them new life.”
Brian moved to Kitchener in 2009, and was unaware of Waterloo Region’s rich industrial history. Exploring the region, he stumbled upon abandoned factories he was keen to document. “I see factories as communities within communities and I always wonder about the people that worked there,” he says.
Inspired by what he saw, he created a photographic series called Forlorn Factories. “When I get access to a place that has been left untouched and exposed to the elements, I think of the conversations the workers had and the time they spent in there,” he says. “I feel very privileged to be able to chronicle the space in some way.”
It came as a bit of a surprise to him that his personal project of photographing factory sites resulted in his first professional photography exhibit: at Kitchener City Hall’s Rotunda Gallery. During his exhibit, he met some people from the Waterloo Region Museum* who asked him to collaborate on a project with local photographer Karl Kessler and storyteller Sunshine Chen. The result is Work Shifts, which chronicles the changing landscape of trades in the region, now part of the museum’s permanent collection.
Beyond industrial sites, Brian also fancies the look of broken-down and abandoned pianos and has created a series called Hammers and Strings. While both series focus on neglected items or spaces, the difference for Brian is intimacy. “Being in an abandoned house, a place people once called home, heightens my level of respect,” he says. “You are in a space where families came together to eat, laugh, cry, argue or play music–important things.”
Brian’s typical clients are architecture firms or property development companies who appreciate his architecture photography skills. Or people who simply have great taste. He’s for hire and is interested in discussing any photographic project you may have.
You can keep up with Brian’s photography projects on Twitter including his 365-day photo project.
P.S. Brian’s favourite topic of conversation: photography, but mostly he prefers to listen rather than talk.
*Does it seem like I’m always talking about the Waterloo Region Museum lately? Hmm, they must be doing something interesting.
7 thoughts on “Chronicling urban decay: Brian Douglas”
Little Red Mixtape
Love the Hammers and Strings concept. Every old piano has a story. Thanks for sharing his work.
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Thanks Little Red Mixedtape. I like the piano series too! He’s got a great eye.
Oh I so love this. I’m totally not into photography but I love this kind of stuff. I remember seeing a photographer who was doing this in Detroit. The old abandoned architecture of the factories and homes was unbelievable.
And I hoped he rescued that chair in that 3rd photo! If not I may.
Thanks for your comment Danielle! I love hearing that people who aren’t so into photography can still find something in my work that connects with them.
And I am not sure where the chair rests now! The American Standard Factory is becoming the Riverside Lofts so maybe (hopefully) the developers saved it. Maybe I need to call them and ask if you don’t beat me to it!
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Thanks Dani. He makes the abandoned spaces look magical somehow. I suspect he left the chair behind though. Maybe this is a new kind of place to do your thrifting!
Great series. Honestly that shot with the chair and curving darkness behind is so very vivid. What a great way to make the past an active memory.
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Thanks for your comments. Brian does amazing work.