I was doing a little google search on ghost towns and I just happened to stumble upon an awesome website, Lost America – Night Photography of the Abandoned West. The site is hosted by Troy Paiva, a true artist with a camera. Apparently, Troy traipses around California, Nevada, and New Mexico, photographing modern ghost towns. And yes, there are tons of modern ghost towns.
Similar to the ghost towns of the wild west, these are the “modern” equivalents, remnants of the 50’s and 60’s. Saloons, blacksmith shops, and little wooden houses have been replaced with abandoned gas stations, drive-in theaters, and mobile homes. The cactus and tumbleweeds that dot the west have been joined by television shells, ripped-up furniture, and rusting home appliances.
The website describes how Troy first came up with his idea of using light painting in his photographs. “Wandering the deserted backroads of the American Southwest, Troy Paiva has explored the abandoned underbelly of America since the 1970s. Since 1989 he’s been taking pictures of it . . . at night, by the light of the full moon.
A multi-discipline artist, Troy needed to find a new medium to create personal art while he worked in a heavily art directed graphic design job. Sitting in on a few night photography classes, he had a revelation when the subject of light-painting came up. Here were techniques that would be perfect for capturing the atmosphere and mystery of the modern ghost towns and epic junkyards he was already exploring.”
Troy describes how he creates light painting, “The moon is the main light source in most of these images. My exterior night photography is all done within 4 nights of the full moon… It took me years to develop my light painting technique. There was lots of experimentation and note-taking. Using a DSLR today means you can preview the images as you go, fine-tuning your lighting until you get exactly what you want.”
Troy’s website is divided into many sections of photographs like Immobile Homes, Ghost Towns, and Cold War Relics, to name a few. You can learn all about light painting on his webesite and even sign up for a workshop headed by Troy. (Unfortunately, the October 2008 workshop is sold out. You’ll have to wait until 2009.) But the best part is browsing through all of those wondeful images. And if you get tired of looking at them online, you can buy his book or order a print.
How someone can find beauty in all of this is pretty amazing, but Troy has done just that. These aren’t just photos in a historical sense, this is art. He is not just preserving these decaying scenes as they are, he’s turning waste and abandonment into beautiful images of mystical light. His photos are both eerie and fantastical yet haunting and surreal. It’s a true talent that reflects itself so genuinely in his artwork.