Lonely Planet Writer

Meet the artist breathing colorful new life into his hometown’s abandoned buildings

There’s no denying the effects of the last few years’ turbulent economic climate. One very visible example is the increasing number of abandoned buildings in towns and cities around the world, due to rent hikes and rising house prices. However, while many of us might pass these buildings without a second glance, an exciting young generation of artists are taking inspiration from these deserted spaces, and creating some absolutely stunning pieces of work.

Abandoned Dakota cabin
Where Light Lives. Image by Daniel Kessel

American photographer Daniel Kessel is one such visionary. His work aims to bring abandoned houses to life through vivid colour and stunning visual effects. What is it exactly that captivates him about these old, abandoned sites? “I grew up in the Dakotas,” Daniel begins, “where abandoned buildings are rife. I’ve always been fascinated by them. For one, aesthetically – I find the buildings full of a character that most newer residential properties lack.”

North Dakota cabin where Franklin D. Roosevelt once stayed
Visitor in the night. Image by Daniel Kessel

“Secondly, and mainly, they’re a monument to ages and stories past. I like bringing new life to abandoned, forgotten and overlooked buildings, because of the hidden, rich stories they hold. The type of photography I do is a creative, fun way of bringing attention to them.”

Abandoned schoolhouse, North Dakota
Haunted. Image by Daniel Kessel

Daniel is always looking out for potential buildings to photograph. “I go on long drives to scout locations, I research via books and the internet, and finally, I ask people. It’s amazing how much you discover just by speaking to locals! As for effects, all the magic happens between the clicks of the shutter opening and closing. I enjoy the challenge and art of light painting, as well as using other special effects, to create unique, creative images.”

Stars and light painting.
Illumine. Image by Daniel Kessel

While right now, his images are primarily in Dakota, Daniel plans to expand the project, and is keen to travel in search of interesting new buildings. “I would absolutely love to travel worldwide, exploring and capturing abandoned buildings all over the globe,” he says. For now, is there one image he holds dear? “My favorite shot is ‘All the Colorful Stories,’ says Daniel. It best captures and expresses visually what my mission is when capturing images of these abandoned buildings.”

All the Colorful Stories. Image by Daniel Kessel
All the Colorful Stories. Image by Daniel Kessel