I was born and raised in Western New York. I attended Sweet Home Schools for 13 years, played in the Amherst Knights hockey league for 11, graduated from UB twice, and bought my first home here. Growing up, Buffalo was always a place to avoid - it was dangerous, empty, and depressing. Staying true to my tagline, Capturing Buffalo and its People, this all changed for me when I started my photography career.
Buffalo has so much to offer that I never knew. Many of these opportunities have developed recently - Canalside is probably the most obvious example. And some of them were always there. During my time living in the 716, a gradual shift in attitude towards the city has taken place. Our crumbling landmarks, once forgotten, are now creative opportunities. The buildings are beautiful, but they tell a sad story - especially the grain elevators. I am slightly ashamed to admit this, but I had no idea these buildings even existed until I stumbled across the beautiful work of a few instagrammers that have taken the time to explore and showcase the abandoned beauty Buffalo has to offer: @katelovesbuffalo, @grey_areas, & @rawdeadfish. Upon seeing their work, I was motivated to learn more about these buildings, and see them for myself. Here are some samples (you should definitely check out their instagram pages)
Now, I want to be clear - I do not recommend visiting these places to anyone for any reason. This is why I am publishing these photos - so you do not have to.
Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an adventurer like Indiana Jones. In the last 5 months or so, I have been on a brief artistic journey to explore and capture abandoned Buffalo NY in my own way. To my surprise, it was a lot easier than I expected. Many of the silos are not fenced in, and basically have their own parking lots. I went to them without any knowledge of their history - which made the experience somewhat magical. I was constantly asking myself questions like “Why is this here? What is that for? Where did everyone go?” My mind was filled with wonder, and my eyes with artistic intrigue. As these questions entered my subconscious, my desire to explore and learn more about Buffalo’s past grew. This was especially the case for the Central Terminal - I am still amazed that such a treasure has been left to rot. As I learned details about each location, I shared them with my audience on instagram - I encourage you to check out a few of the images on my page (and I always appreciate a new follower), but for a more in depth understanding I highly recommend the Buffalo Architecture and History website which has been a valuable resource to me.
The Central Terminal is a popular location for abandonment photography in Buffalo - and for good reason. It showcases the incredible and unique architecture of Buffalo’s past. To me, this location is a metaphor for Buffalo’s past, present, and future. Buffalo has a proud heritage and was once a highly successful city - we see this in the original design of the Terminal. Since the population decline, this past has been forgotten - seen as the current state of this crumbling building. And finally - the buildings popularity among the photography community, capturing a spirit of resurgence, is how I see the future. The photograph below is my interpretation of this concept.
The grain elevators/silos in Buffalo NY are captivating. When I had no idea what they were, my imagination ran wild. Exploring row upon row of support columns, I felt as if I were on the movie set of Blade Runner. This landscape held a very significant role in Buffalo’s history, but in my mind, it was an alien world ripe with ancient ruins that had to be explored. And explore I did. Other people came with me on this journey, new friends, talented models, and fellow creatives. Aside from the artistic and historic aspect of this adventure - the people I have met and the experiences we had together have been unforgettable.
On one of my more recent expeditions, I realized the creative potential in these spaces is truly unlimited. As we walked up to the scene to the right, I heard the beautiful, yet mysterious sounds of chanting, melody, and grace - echoing with power unlike anything I had ever heard before (play "Discovery").
We waited for them to come out of the hole I saw them climb up into - I had to meet them. When I came face to face with the voice I heard - he said “wow - you just caught me doing something sacred.” I replied “it was one of the most amazing things I have ever heard.” He introduced himself as Jon Herr and his friend Dan Giles. Moments later I was crawling up into the small hole with a complete stranger. On the other side of this rusty portal I found myself in a giant cylinder (a grain silo), but to my new friend, it was a musical instrument. He instructed me to pat my chest - the echo inside of this tall room was magical. I asked him if he would mind if I recorded a song, and he sang for us a beautiful song that I call “To Be Alive” (play to the right). Words cannot express how profound this experience was for me - creatively and spiritually. After the song, we collaborated for a short impromptu photoshoot, and then we parted ways as abruptly as we met.
This story is just one of many and I feel energized and inspired by each person I have met along the way. But my time as an urban explorer is coming to an end, for now. I feel satisfied with the experiences I was fortunate enough to have - they were more amazing than I could have ever imagined them to be. Briefly diving into the history and creative culture of this part of Buffalo has helped me to appreciate what I once knew only as dangerous, empty, and depressing. I look forward to what awaits me next.
Special thanks to Zack Wintrob, Kate loves Buffalo, Shaun Reich, Kaitlyn Filippi, Nick Hazel, Jon Herr, and John R Witt for being creative with me, and most of all to my wife Nicole for letting me be me.