Dead Houses

My obsession with abandoned houses in Italy

My fascination and affection for what I call ‘Dead Houses’ began a few years ago.

Unmade bed in abandoned earthquak house

I had noticed an old collapsed house off in the distance, high on the side of a hill, some miles from my village. There was enough of the house’s faded pink paintwork visible, through the trees and undergrowth, to catch my eye. It made a lasting impression. One day, about a year after I first saw it, I decided I wanted, needed even, to see it up close. I found a way to get to it, driving along dusty lanes and tracks until, eventually, I ran out of road. I left the car and tramped the rest of the way to the house on foot.

Once there, I could see no way in the world to get in: it was tied up in ivy and creepers, almost suffocated. The front door was completely jammed shut. Round the back there was a small broken window. I looked in. I could see almost nothing but I sensed a great deal lay inside.

I went home. I put on old tracksuit bottoms, my pair of massively tough pink Doc Martens, picked up my camera and went back.

The photographs that you can see, below, are the very first I ever took.

It was the beginning of a mini-obsession.

The secrets of my Dead Houses

Since that day, I have discovered quite a few abandoned houses in this region and I always find a way to get in. Usually that’s through a small window (and after I’ve knocked away bits of glass that always manage to snag my clothes), or else through a door that’s warped enough for me to squeeze through a gap. The day after one these solitary excursions my body looks like a 12 year old boy’s – all cuts, grazes and bruises from crawling through windows, falling up rotten staircases or down through bits of missing floor. Nothing deters me!

vintage light fitting with cobwebs on wall
Bedroom light| No.1

green wood shutter on colourful damaged wallpaper
Ruined wallpaper and shutter

old baby rocker in abandoned attic

dining room table with collapsed ceiling above
Dining room and collapsed ceiling

bed with stuffing on floor deserted house
Bedroom| No.1

old loo roll on blue wall of deserted house
Loo roll

Wine cask under window in deserted room
Wine cask

I never tell anyone exactly where a house I have found is. I feel oddly proprietorial about them and quite protective.

I never, ever take anything from these special places – no souvenir of my clandestine visit – nor do I touch anything (unless it’s to steady myself as I teeter about in the shadows on floors and staircases that have all but given way).

I have collections of photographs from all these houses I’ve explored and I will be putting them up, house by house, in the very near future!

Anyway, here are some images from that very first house, The Belforte House, as I call it.

I have these images produced as Giclee Prints on Hahnemuhle Pearl fine art paper which has an exquisite, slightly orange peel texture … gives them a painterly feel … if you are interested in any of these, just contact me and we can talk, work something out for you.