Documenting Richmond’s Decay, Building by Building
Richmond, Virginia, has seen its fair share of architectural tumult. During the Civil War, a quarter of the city’s structures were destroyed by the Great Evacuation Fire of 1865; in modern times, urban decay and economic downturn have left many more structures abandoned and forgotten. But it’s from that slow urban crumble that a group called Decayed Richmond has emerged — sneaking into old buildings and documenting their stories, in photos and words. For the past two years, the group of urban explorers has climbed, crawled, jumped, and rapelled their way into some of Richmond’s scariest locations — churches, schools, an abandoned mental institution — all in a quest for meaning. Do those old buildings mean anything? Do they have a story to tell?
Mostly artists and students who keep their identities secret, Decayed Richmond is now working on a Kickstarter-funded documentary that will follow them as they document the interiors of these derelict places. They are vigilante historians who give the decay a name and face. But they do abide by one over-arching mantra: Take only photographs. Leave only footprints. Here’s what they have to say about their mission and craft.
Why make a documentary about Richmond?
Richmond has a rich but dark history. Not to mention, abandonment is quite abundant here. There are so many little-heard secrets hidden in the tunnels and decaying buildings, waiting to be uncovered by those who wander into that darkness.
Tiny inchworm on a sedum flower