Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Incredible photos of secret abandoned palaces

By Barry Neild, CNN
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Polish photographer Patrycja Makowska takes incredibly detailed shots of ruined buildings but refuses to divulge their location. Polish photographer Patrycja Makowska takes incredibly detailed shots of ruined buildings but refuses to divulge their location.
HIDE CAPTION
Forgotten grandeur
Hole in the roof
Blue ballroom
'Darkness' descends
Abandoned objects
'Ethereal Dreams'
Rocking horse
Crumbling corridor
Shafts of light
Swirling staircase
Studying the past
Forgotten corners
From places to people
"Everything Will Fill With Light"
'Symphony of Destruction'
'Memories of Days Gone By'
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former history teacher Patrycja Makowska specializes in photographing dereliction
  • Makowska refuses to reveal the location of the buildings, saying they should be forgotten
  • Her images show vast ornate ballrooms, swirling spiral staircases and elegant chapels strewn with rubble

(CNN) -- Patrycja Makowska likes to give enigmatic names to the extraordinarily beautiful photographs she shoots of crumbling palaces.

But that's not where the enigma of her work ends.

Despite creating alluring images of abandoned buildings, she's determined to keep their locations a mystery.

"Places reflect our soul, tell the forgotten story of love, disaster, war, as well as ordinary life," Makowska, a former history teacher from Poland, tells CNN as she tries to explain her shroud of secrecy.

"Everything passes, even the power of past times is often forgotten. And that's why I don't give any addresses, because often these places are destroyed and devastated, it's better for them to have been forgotten."

Not, however, forgotten by Makowska's cameras.

She uses old analog Russian photo equipment and lenses, plus some more modern Canon and Nikon equipment to create images that pay homage to the original grandeur of these baroque structures.

With otherworldly titles such as "Ethereal Dreams" and "Lost Under the Surface," her photographs have an unrealistic quality more closely associated with paintings -- but the incredible detail on display would take more than a lifetime's worth of brushstrokes to recreate.

MORE: 'Urban explorers' journey through abandoned buildings

Swirling spiral staircases

The images show vast ornate ballrooms, swirling spiral staircases and elegant chapels strewn with rubble.

Sunlight shafts bore in through broken windows or holes in roofs.

Sometimes an abandoned toy or chair adds a poignant human touch to the dereliction.

Makowska, who lives in Warsaw, took up photography about 12 years ago.

Her first subject was a ruined medieval castle in the southern Polish town of Muszyna.

During stays in the UK and Iceland she says she realized there was "magic" in forgotten places and began seeking them out in her home country.

Finding her subjects takes effort, she says.

MORE: 25 things we love about Poland

"The location of these places is hard work, the research involves maps, historical books and old guides, and talking to people who live in the areas of the buildings."

Her refusal to identify where these buildings will at least prevent them from becoming "ruin porn" destinations -- a status deplored by some places trying shake off economic decline.

Makowska, who now works in IT, says she has been inspired by people's reactions to her work into pursuing further projects.

On her list is nature photography -- "mountains, meadows and sea" -- and documenting "URBEX," the sometimes risky global trend of urban exploration that occasionally involves trespassing on dangerous structures.

She also wants to tackle human subjects.

"This would be a breakthrough for me because so far my work hasn't involved any people or portraits."

MORE: Exploring Japan's derelict urban spaces

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
Based on the votes of over 330 industry experts, the 2014 winners include bars from 27 cities in 14 countries.
October 12, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Careening down an active volcano at 95 kph on a thin board? It happens only at Cerro Negro in Nicaragua.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 1337 GMT (2137 HKT)
Tips and techniques for those who want to turn their vacation into a rewarding family history lesson.
October 9, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
From savory power snacks to beloved Indian ice cream, here's how to do Delhi street food right.
October 8, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
La Chaux de Fonds, Avenue Léopold Robert. Neuchâtel: Phototypie Co., Postmark 16.6.1919
Long before our traveling friends had Facebook and Instagram to taunt us, they had postcards.
October 8, 2014 -- Updated 0625 GMT (1425 HKT)
After slurping down noodles in 1,000 stores, the "ramen guy" untangles the complex flavors of Japan's diverse dish
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1655 GMT (0055 HKT)
A visitor lies down to take a selfie on the new glass floor at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Mayor of Paris says 125-year-old landmark's new attraction will prove to critics the city still has some magic.
October 10, 2014 -- Updated 0244 GMT (1044 HKT)
These days, some of the best running trails can be found in the world's busiest places.
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 0625 GMT (1425 HKT)
A 1939 Bugatti 57C in the Cite de l'Automobile in Mulhouse France.
Midlife crisis males have nothing on Bugatti-obsessed brothers behind vast sports car collection.
October 7, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
When it comes to air travel, courtesy and common sense are often the first two things to fly out the departure gates.
ADVERTISEMENT