Knowing an Artist at Daemen College: Stefan Foster Sections of the article are excerpts from my book, Revive the Ambience (Photography & Visual Works) – Reflection No1.
I am a photographer and visual artist, with a specialization in photography focused on abandoned buildings, cemeteries,and other lesser-known sites. I began taking pictures in fifth grade as an amateur -a kid with a camera- but I have developed into a more serious and focused artist at this point in my life. In August of 2013 I met Tina Utter and (now my partner) Kurt Riegel, who began exploring with me and introduced me to a new and exciting life of abandonment.
My photography pursuit is known as “Revive the Ambience (Photography & Visual Works).
As far back as I can remember, I have always explored in the woods, walked roads alone and written down my dreams. These were signs of my entire psyche, being attracted to the more mysterious and unknown aspects of life. My interests have always been rooted in my fascination in life’s curiosities, which created my desire to get lost from reality and explore in the shadows of everyday life.
My desire to explore the unknown and arcane elements of life provide the reasoning for my love and obsession of abandoned and desolate buildings, cemeteries and sites. Abandoned buildings are filled with forgotten histories, dark emotions and lost stories, yet physically are uninhabited. The mind gets lost in abandoned buildings, wandering the empty hallways and staircases, yearning to find something but never knowing what. It is the prime opportunity to escape reality and to feel and become immersed in an indescribable atmosphere.
Exploring abandonment has taught me to embrace the vibrancy of life. Our fate of death and decay is inevitable, just like the abandoned sites I have explored. Abandonment speaks to the arcane elements of life and death and that is what influences my photography and pursuit of life the most. I hope anyone who sees my pictures can appreciate the buildings and sites in the photographs and can walk away with a sense of how the atmospheres and stories in the abandoned sites speak volumes without words.
Many stories, memories and lives were left behind in the walls of the abandoned buildings and little remains of them today. We will all end up as the buildings and sites do, left to decay in the hands of nature with nothing to help us. Efforts can be made to bring us back and help us hold on, but nothing in life can last forever. Until our final departure, I will cherish my memories and continue to embrace the enigmatic world of abandonment and desolation.
I spend hours in the dark with my Mac sorting through my pictures, editing one by one, and getting lost in music. I never work with my pictures without listening to music. I listen mostly to the following: Amy Winehouse, Lady GaGa, oOoOO, White Ring, Crystal Castles, Oneohtrix Point Never, Chrome Sparks, Lana Del Rey, TR/ST, Appaloosa, Glass Teeth, Fleetwood Mac, Glass Candy, Mac Demarco, Chromatics, Neon Indian, Desire and Joy Division.
“Revive the Ambience” has developed into my way of channeling emotions, memories and experiences into something visual and real, something outside of my mental state. Looking back, I feel as if my earliest explorations were in a past life. Perhaps because they were so significant and they were a long time ago. I will never be able to return to the past.
My photographs are a visual experience of my explorations and capture the details, qualities and atmospheres of the abandoned sites I have explored as much as possible. I will never be fully satisfied with my pictures, for the reason that the true atmospheres and dark qualities could never be captured perfectly. I do not feel bad about it because it is an impossible task. A photograph cannot capture the smells of decay, the echoing sounds of voices in empty hallways or being in the physical and mental presence of a haunting entity greater than oneself. There is a reality of abandonment that cannot be replicated in a picture. There is a risk, a danger and darkness.
Edvard Munch once said, “From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.” Abandoned buildings represent the inevitable fate of death in the most authentic form. Like the abandoned buildings, we will all be called to death eventually. Until that moment, embrace the arcane elements of Earth. Make the most of your memories and experiences, as they will die with you. Nothing can last forever. Life will continue beyond us and we will fade into a distant remembrance. Embrace this realm and feel the ambience.