Stages of Decay: Gorgeous Photographs of Destroyed Theaters


In Julia Solis’s newest book, Stages of Decay , the renowned photographer of ruined buildings and underground spaces collects gorgeous, unsettling photographs of over 100 stages in the US and Europe. Taken over several years and including everything from the stages of community centers to once-grand movie palaces, these photographs are haunting and lovely — an ode to what once was, but also an ode to what is.

When we asked Solis about the endless cultural fascination with ruined urban spaces, she explained: “We’re brought up to believe in progress and nothing shatters that illusion as much as the crumbling of the edifices that were meant to transport us there. Such epic failure is a taboo of almost tantalizing proportions. And I think ruins tend to be seen in terms of how they reflect the passage of time, the slow decomposition that clings to its own history as a kind of last resort. But at the same time — and maybe more interestingly — I think ruins evoke a longing for freedom. They signify something wild and uncontrolled — a building breaking from its constraints and toppling into a last crackling dance — that awakens a sense of adventure and looseness that is hard to come by in most urban settings. Abandoned buildings are beautiful, dangerous and unpredictable, in other words, magically enticing. You want a one-on-one encounter with it, to open secret closets and fondle plaster and play with rusted machinery without your parents’ interference. In a society that’s increasingly controlled, monitored, and publicized, a wild space like that can’t help but have an incredible allure.” Below, check out some of Solis’s incredibly alluring photographs of ruined performance spaces, and pick up a copy of her book for much more.

Sanitarium, Germany. © Julia Solis, 2013

Hubert Elementary School, Michigan. © Julia Solis, 2013

Thomas Edison School, Pennsylvania. © Julia Solis, 2013

Grabowsee Heilstätten, Germany. © Julia Solis, 2013

Beelitz-Heilstätten, Germany. © Julia Solis, 2013

Movie palace, Wisconsin. © Julia Solis, 2013

Career development center, Michigan. © Julia Solis, 2013

Henryton State Hospital, Maryland. © Julia Solis, 2013

Michigan Theater, Michigan. © Julia Solis, 2013

Adult Education Center, Michigan. © Julia Solis, 2013

Norwich State Hospital, Connecticut. © Julia Solis, 2013