We all think of abandoned buildings as ghoulish and eerie spots with a dark history even when there’s nothing paranormal about them. What gives us that impression are the multiple tales that are set in these, since their decay conveys that macabre atmosphere. I mean, what would spook you the most? A story about a ghost haunting, an abandoned asylum, or a modern mall? Well, actually anything related to ghost is kind of eerie, but you get the point. That mysterious vibe proper of derelict places or objects has always fascinated people, and so they've become the stars of artistic works in the many disciplines you can imagine.
Great poets have talked about the decay of material assets. For instance, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Ozymandias” talks about how the end of Ramses II’s glory can be compared with the decay of his statue now almost vanished. Or Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 55” talks about how material things eventually disappear while words and love can be infinite. Anyway, decay is a motif that captivates us all, no matter the lenses we see that through, because at the end of the day, they remind us of our own temporality in this world. That emotion is what we can appreciate in Bob Thissen’s photographic series Japan Love Hotel.
Specialized in the professional photography of abandoned spaces, Thissen presents this particular series of his exploration of these “love hotels.” These places, that once rented their rooms per hour, are now only remnants of what they once were. The passing of time itself impregnates these spaces with an artistic beauty that's hard to achieve with human hands.
His very detailed photographs let us appreciate the dust and cobwebs to be evidence of time’s strokes on a canvas that, even when it was already visually attractive, still had an essence of decay. The fact that the objects and ornaments decorating each room haven’t been touched in years makes us wonder about the story of the last hosts that once enjoyed the premises.
The washed-out pink, red, and green hues of the walls and sheets make us witnesses of nature’s imposing and unforgivable force, while the damaged structures of the building are capricious reminders of our own unavoidable doom. But more importantly, the fact that this place was euphemistically known as a “love” hotel takes us back to the Shakespeare sonnet I mentioned before, showing us that even when the material things might disappear sometimes, the love (even if it’s just a euphemism for sex) is still present. Here this is like a ghost that refused to leave the place and still adorns it with its invisible, and yet noticeable mark.
This is not Bob Thissen’s first project portraying the beauty of abandoned buildings. As he explains in an interview with CNN, he liked thinking about himself as a modern urban Indiana Jones going on amazing adventures to this derelict spots in cities and finding the incredible treasures most don’t even dare to find for themselves. Going to not very mainstream spots in the world, he likes discovering those forgotten places filled with history and bringing them back to life with his captivating photograph work.
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