Lonely Planet Writer

Requiem for pianos: photographer captures Europe’s abandoned instruments

Photography projects that involve travel can often highlight the differences and similarities of cultures and architecture all over the world. And other times, they can shine a light on hidden or forgotten aspects of life. One such example is Requiem for Pianos a photo project that captures the haunting beauty of abandoned instruments across Europe.

A piano inside an abandoned hospital in Germany, taken in 2015.
A piano inside an abandoned hospital in Germany, taken in 2015. Image by Romain Thiery

Created by French photographer Romain Thiery, the project began in 2014, when he discovered a forgotten piano while exploring a castle in the south-west of France. “As a pianist myself since the age of five, emotion takes over when I discover a neglected piano. It is a big part of my life. I play every day on my grand piano in my house, at some exhibitions and I even teach piano in my town. This is the culmination of my art, my two passions are then united in one and the same feeling,” Romain told Lonely Planet Travel News.

A piano at an abandoned French villa, taken in 2014.
A piano at an abandoned French villa, taken in 2014. Image by Romain Thiery

Since that first interaction with the abandoned instrument, Romain has spent his time travelling across Europe to find more of the same. He has journeyed through France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Romania and the Czech Republic, and has visited more than 150 places since 2009. “Finding a piano is not easy, but I have shot more than 50 for the series. Every country is different, and has its own culture and history.” he said.

A piano in an abandoned palace in Poland, taken in 2018.
A piano in an abandoned palace in Poland, taken in 2018. Image by Romain Thiery

The series shows dust-covered pianos of different shapes and sizes in stately rooms. Some images present grand pianos with missing keys, while others depict the instruments as collapsed and badly damaged. Often, the pianos are the only pieces of furniture in the room, evoking a poignant sense of melancholy. “I see that everything is getting moved away, except the piano. Vandals have looted everything, but the grand piano remains. Even covered in thick dust, a piano never ceases to impose nobility and its respect,” Romain said.

A piano inside an abandoned castle in France, taken in 2017.
A piano inside an abandoned castle in France, taken in 2017. Image by Romain Thiery

More of Romain’s work is available at his official website.