I’ve had inquiries about revealing the locations of places over the years. Some of the places are popular, easy to find, and allow public access (or close enough to a public road that a person can photograph safely). Other places not so much and are kept a closely guarded secret. Why wouldn’t I be a friendly person and tell everyone where they are? Am I just being selfish? They are beautiful places and should be shared, right? That’s true, however doing so, these places (and curiosity-seekers) could suffer some dire consequences.
1. Staying quiet keeps most people away, creating less wear and tear on the already poor conditions of the building(s). They are fragile and our footsteps slowly break down the foundations with every step. If you get permission to enter these places, treat it as an archaeology site and be careful what you touch and where you step. What’s the saying? ”Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”.
2. Many people ignore “No Trespassing” signs. This creates a very angry farmer/property owner hence giving most photographers a bad name. Property owners don’t need to be guarding these buildings. They have enough on their plate with their incredibly tough jobs. Many farmers get sick and tired of people disobeying their signs and end up demolishing these buildings as they have become a nuisance. If a place is posted then PLEASE OBEY SIGNS!
3. Many photographers want an old house to do a portrait session. Sure, they make for cool pictures but there is definitely a risk of bodily injury that can occur and your insurance may not cover you or them. And good luck getting a farmer to sign a release form.
4. If I give the location to one person, who’s stopping them from giving it to someone else. It may not be YOU that causes problems, it will be that other person or the person that person gives the location to.
5. I build a relationship with a person FIRST before I divulge a location. Usually, after observing them online or through the photographer's network by talking to others, I can get a sense of what they are like. If things go well, then I would either give them the contact information to the landowner, or on occasion get the full location to the property.
6. These old places are also home to animals who have made it their home and can be very territorial and dangerous. If a mouse, bird, squirrel or skunk decides to set up residence under your deck how does that make you feel? Well, that’s how they feel about us. Please keep you’re eyes and ears open for wildlife.
7. If I find a cemetery, landmark or old house that is well off the beaten path, I’ll usually give out the area that it resides. For example, if I say it’s NW of Ogema, Saskatchewan, then I’ve given you a small piece of the puzzle. It’s usually easy to find if you hit up some gravel roads in the area, or do some searching on Google Maps.
8. I’ve spent countless hours driving, mapping, and researching hundreds of locations. I’m not going to give the exact location to you after all my hard work, sorry. 90% of the fun is the road trip. Find them yourself, you won’t regret it!
That said, I’ve on occasion contacted many photographers and asked them for help to find places. Some give hints, some tell me the exact location/or contact information, and others have told me to scram!! It can be frustrating to see someone get a location to a great place but then won’t help you in your quest to find it.
As a photographer who has made the mistakes (and still does), I feel that it is my responsibility to communicate the guiding principles to photographers and curiosity seekers. Above all, be respectful, be safe and have fun, because these places are disappearing and one day they will be gone!
- Jason Paul Sailer