Photos of abandon places are very common in and around Berlin, the vestiges of the well know German past are everywhere you look. But for the French photographer Guillaume Prugniel the Deutsch abandon places are more of a playground for his late adventures with colour lights and cameras.
Prugniel has been shooting digital pics since he was young, armed with simpler shot and point or phone cameras he started to jump fences and shot at night somewhere around 2012. Now based in Berlin since 2016 the photographer present his series Enlight the Void
A winter night, somewhere in 2012, I got bored and jumped the fence of a university park after the first snow. From then I started to snapshot everything around me, trying to make those snapshot interesting.
The origin of this series is somewhat a succession of events and experiences, stacking from the beginning of my photography journey.
Something really happened when, biking with a friend, by chance, we found an abandoned factory. It was so fascinating that I started taking photos with my phone (a galaxy s2 back then, bad quality…). One thing after the other, I moved forward. The university gave us a course about video, in which I discovered the exposure triangle, picking my curiosity so well that I started learning the technical side by myself. I got a new phone with a better quality camera. The movie Urban Escape, from David de Rueda, was screened in my city. It pushed me to look for more abandoned places, I had no idea there was so many around ! Soon, I spent every week end out with friends in not so secret places.
Abandoned places are somewhat similar to known touristic places, or famous landscape. Once you arrive on location, there are certains framings and angles trying to grab you, and it’s easy to end up with an image that has already been done dozens of time. Still, I am attracted by those atmospheres, so I try to break the routine. Including someone in the frame is a good step to tell a story.
My first real series, Fill the Void, included some of my friends in decaying locations, by day. I stopped a bit this one when I started to play with flash in a studio, learning more about light and colors. This new series, Enlight the Void, is a combination of things I love: urban exploration, my friends, light, colors, and waking up possibly after 10:30 to discuss what we’ll have for dinner.
I indeed started to carry a few speedlights in my bag, along with color filters, and with no specific aim in mind, I took a few images while exploring, setting bases for the following pictures. Feeling that I found an interesting direction, I started to work on it last year, 2019. I made a road trip from Berlin, all the way to the very western point of Bretagne, staying open to experimentations and just letting the images happen. I brought back a nice collection, and a clearer vision of how to continue.
The idea is to show uncommon places in uncommon ways. I want to tell stories, not explicitly, but in a way the viewer can decide who is the character and what is happening. On some images, the nature of the place itself is even unclear, and it is fine this way.
I want to do things my way, and I hope the result inspires other people to go their own ways, to experiment.
It can often take an hour to make a photo, from the moment I pick the frame until the final shoot. Most of the time I have 6 speedlights with me, and depending on the situation I might use them all, or just one of my flashlights. The speedlights can be very practical, because I can adjust their power very fast and precisely, and when the exposures are 20 second long (to have some background thanks to light pollution, or the stars), at least my subject doesn’t get blurry.
The flashlights give a more organic light, with softer shadows and softer borders, and sometimes I mix different techniques. It’s important to put one light after the other, and to know when to stop. If only two lights are fine, it’s ok to leave the others in the bag, they will not get upset !
I do what I can with what I have. Having someone along is fantastic ! First of all it is more fun, and with several brains we can get more creative. I happen to put myself on the photo when it is necessary: if it just fits, or if my friend doesn’t want to be on the photo. When I am alone, it can get more complicated, but I still do it.
I still need to make quite a few more photos. There are some specific locations I would like to shoot, and I really look forward the next sessions !
The plan is to self publish a book. With the current situation I do not know how fast I will be able to gather new material for it, but this is one of the goal for those images. It is great to get photos on paper !