An illustrated guide to urban exploration in the Russian capital.
30 January 2014
I’ve always loved the winter. More than any other season it shows a world transformed; a world stripped bare, reduced to shapes and skeletons. Bleak, perhaps, but never final. Rather, the clean white brilliance of winter serves as a fresh start, the snows settling to lay an almost unnaturally blank canvas. They hide the dirt, the rust and imperfections, to show even the ugliest of sights in the simplest, cleanest of form.
Such was the case with this scrapyard; an ugly place of metal and rotten rubber, transformed to clean geometry beneath a blanket of crisp, white snow.
There’s a little town I know quite well, high up in the Balkan Mountains of Bulgaria; or as they call them here, the “Stara Planina”: Old Mountains. This town was once a powerhouse of industry, but in latter years its factories have retired. The mills are silent, the chimneys no longer belch smoke into the mountain air. Wealthy tourists come from the cities, to vacation in this peaceful mountain valley.
Sometimes though, there simply is no story. Sometimes there is no adventure. Some places, in fact, are exactly as they seem to be. The scrapyard near the glass factory was one such place… and these images of decay, of broken, twisted metal lain purified beneath white velvet, express as much, perhaps, as any words could tell. In Bulgaria they have a name for this place too. They call it “Avtomorga”: it means Auto Morgue.
When I had seen all there was to see here, I made my way back to the road. Outside the scrapyard, the broken body of an ambulance lay smashed against a wall. I stopped on the pavement to take a picture, but my concentration was broken by the sound of a car horn.
Strange that the sound seemed so unnatural. Here I was, surrounded by the shattered remains of vehicles… and yet they were a part of this landscape. Their voices had long since been silenced and as I explored the yard, I had perceived them as no more than shapes beneath the snow; as forms without function, mere objects in the absence of design.
I looked towards the road, towards the car that had pulled over to the kerb. A squat little man in overalls was getting out to shout at me, waving one hand angrily in the air. The owner of the yard, I guessed. The man was in his fifties, perhaps, and overweight. There was no way he’d come running after me; I knew it, and he knew that I knew it. I took the picture.
Walking away from the auto morgue, boots crunching through the snow that lay in drifts at times as high as my knees, I paused to stop beside a roadside graveyard. Many of the stones bore portraits, faded pictures on ceramic that gazed out in monochrome across a monochrome landscape.
I wondered how many of these departed townsfolk had worked at the old glass factory. I wondered if they’d ever driven the cars that lay in piles of melancholy scrap across the road.
And then I moved on… heading back into the town, back inside to a warm fire, back to the world of colour.