Today I made a trip that I have been putting off for some time now. My destination is one that is rather common yet unknown to most people. City Methodist is located in the heart of Gary Indiana. Its a church that was built in the 1920′s to serve the employees of US Steel. When the Steel industry collapsed so did the congregation at the church and it was closed in the 1970′s and later burnt. You can search online for more information on the site and its past if your so inclined.
What I found interesting was how many amazing subjects are scattered thru out the rather large building. While the building is all but completed gutted. there are small relics that have stood the test of time and add a human touch to otherwise wasteland of urban decay. For instance there are various chairs and sofas that are scattered thru out the property. Though I wouldn’t feel very comfortable sitting on any of them, they make fairly decent photographic subjects. Even the dirt and debris adds greatly to the scene.
However this is also a challenging place to create images. The roof is only at most 80% intact and the water issues are immense. You are constantly left searching for a dry area to setup your tripod for a shot. And that tripod is all but required for the majority of your shots. This a large cavernous building that, due to debris and attempts to secure the site, is about 60%+ low light. Lets not forget that there is no power so battery packs would be required for any large lights to be considered. Then again, you could be hard pressed finding good spots to setup any lights that you negotiated into the site.
Along with these logistical challenges come the health and safety issues. This building is completely abandoned and in a continuous state of decay. The main health issue that I could see would relate to the mold and the possibility of asbestos contamination. While I wouldn’t avoid the site solely because of these factors, they are certainly worth taking into consideration. What is even more pressing on ones mind is the safety concerns. This is a very unstable building with debris collapsing at what seems like a constant pace. With that debris comes a ton of trip hazards along with the possibility of getting a nail in your foot.
As you work your way up the 4 levels of the site, you will notice that the building is not structurally sound by any since of the imagination. At one point today I made it up to the 4th floor and stepped on some rotted wood that could of sent me on a rapid decent to atleast the 3rd if not 2nd floor. It seems that there is a considerable amount of wood flooring scattered thru out the site. Most of this floor is rotted thru. The problem is that with the debris, its almost impossible in some spots to see what your actually standing on. So I suggest that anyone checking out this site to take it one step at a time and look before you move.
All that aside, this is an amazing site and some where that you could certainly spend a day or more scouting and another day shooting. I just suggest that you bring a friend to assist you. Speaking of friends. My time on the site today would not of been possible without the help of my brother Zach Baker (scouting) and Krisi Lesmeister (logistics).
-More To Come-