One may pass by these places daily, rundown factories, boarded-up homes, forgotten mansions, the spots your parents told you not to go into because you will need a tetanus shot…Johnny Joo is in them…photographing every detail of time, that was left behind to decay.
While most 24 year olds are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their life, this one is exploring abandoned locations all over Northeast Ohio and beyond. Published photojournalist, Johnny Joo (Pronounced “YO”), found his creative outlet in photography at the early age of 15. Starting off with a simple point and shoot in his pocket, and accompanied by a friend, they would find themselves exploring those areas and spots that no one is brave enough to enter alone.
Joo’s interest in abandoned buildings began at the young age of 16, when his family would pass by a Kirtland, Ohio farmhouse every day going to his sister’s house. “With only a point-and-shoot camera handy, I asked my parents to stop the car in the driveway, I loved the way the roof was caving in on itself, covered in moss. They eventually, one day, decided it would be okay to stop. As we walked through, we discovered it was an old horse stable, tilted floor and all, and it fascinated me how something like this was just left behind, how eerie it felt...This same section of land would soon become one of my favorite spots of the years to come, until finally being torn down. As a whole, exploring has always been something that intrigued me, whether it is abandoned buildings, a serene nature scene hidden away from people, weird artifacts or just being out and doing something. I even used to explore my grandmother's house when I was little. I would ride my bike there when she was out, grab a root beer from her fridge and venture to the upstairs- where my mother and uncle's old rooms were, having not been touched in years- it was almost like a creepy abandoned place. So I guess you could say I really just love the atmosphere, the quiet feeling being tucked away in these places….oh, and cats… a lot.”
Around 2007, Joo began photographing and visiting more and more places. Some of the places he explored were; old farm cottages, barns and houses, including the (now demolished) Gale Estate mansion which used to sit on a road not far from his current residence. These cherished locations were his first set of empty spaces. This quickly turned into an entire subject consuming his area of photojournalism. Since then, Joo has researched and photographed too many places to really count. “Each forgotten and abandoned space is all so intriguing. It is something that once was, and is no more, still there, but will soon one day be gone. People tend to look past a lot of these places, not taking notice that they are there, which is sometimes a good thing due to vandals. While some things have been blown out like an amusement park, some hidden gems remain, which serious explorers do visit, keeping as many vandals or scrappers away as possible.”
Joo is currently working on an “Art Abandonment Project”. Joo has left personally signed prints throughout places all over that he has photographed. Different towns, cities, parks, etc. To some, they may not be anything huge, but if you're lucky enough to find one before someone else takes it, or in some cases it gets rained on he would love to see who has found it! A lot of them may be placed throughout large geocaches, moved around, pretty much anywhere. Joo will be taking photos of each location where he leaves one behind, and be posting the photos to his page on facebook, and also his website.
Joo is curious to see who finds his “Abandoned Art Projects” left behind. Once everything is rounded up, at the end of this year he will be giving one of his books, “Empty Spaces” away for FREE to one lucky person who found a print, and has messaged him on the Urbex facebook page with where they found it!
Currently all first edition copies of his hardcover book have sold, but you can grab an e-book version here, or wait until it is available in stores near the end of August. For the fellow urban explorer, you can also grab one of his custom made tee shirts to show your support. Joo encourages fellow urban explorers to tag him with your photo wearing one of his purchased shirts. He wants to see where all his fans and fellow explorers are located. “With the purchase of a shirt, if you message me with your order/receipt number I will personally provide you with a free e-book as well! Oh, and did I mention? ..I really like cats.”
Johnny Joo’s work is creatively simple and completely focused on the subject, yet sublimely beautiful. Each one is a work of art that generates pleasant emotions. His captures tell a story and leave you intrigued with curiosity and a desire to wanderlust.
*Please Note: Explore at your own risk.