Buzludzha, Bulgaria (all photographs by Rebecca Litchfield)
Out in the former Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain still hangs in tatters. Photographer Rebecca Litchfield journeyed through freezing winds and sometimes high security to document these abandoned remains. From Ukraine, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Croatia, Russia, and places in between, she sought out the ruins of bombastic optimism for a utopian future and military paranoia. In a new book called Soviet Ghosts, released this month by Carpet Bombing Culture, these photographs are compiled into one haunting vision of a lost empire. Litchfield answered a few of our questions about the book and shared some of its incredible images below.
It’s not easy to get to these Soviet ruins, and you experienced some incredible hazards like radiation exposure, arrest, interrogation. What drew you there?
I love the challenge to get to places. It takes many hours of preparation, lots of driving, and getting up before sunrise, and of course there are the dangers. But it’s very exciting to see these places and witness something that not a lot people would see normally. It’s amazing to capture these images so I can show them to people who would have never have imagined these places could have existed. You need to be careful all the time, but for me it is worth it.
How did you find these places that are off most people’s radar?
It takes a lot of research; Google is my best friend. It’s all about searching different areas all around the world for derelict and abandoned places. A lot of detective work is required, and also word of mouth from people that have visited previously.
Is there something about Soviet ruins that you find more captivating than other abandoned places?
I was drawn to the ruins left from the Soviet Union, because it is an era in time that has now passed, and I feel it is important to capture these places before they are completely gone, like capturing a moment in history that soon will pass.
Are you continuing to explore Soviet ruins, or has the experience led you to another subject?
I will continue to capture ruins all over the world for the indefinite future, also I am embarking on a PhD on the photographing of “Dark Tourist” sites around the world, so will spend a lot of time visiting and capturing these locations over the next three years.
Soviet Steam Train, Hungary
Soviet Friendship Monument in Bulgaria
Soviet Submarine, UK
Tuberculosis Hospital, Russia
Technical College, Russia