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
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Nonprofit Ethical Traveler has released its annual list of the developing countries doing the most to promote human rights and preserve their environments.
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1036 GMT (1836 HKT)
These waterfront watering holes have killer ocean views, creative drinks and the mahalo vibe we demand.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 2038 GMT (0438 HKT)
Can't wait to book your ticket to Indianapolis and Oakland? The venerable guidebook is right there with you
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 0625 GMT (1425 HKT)
By helicopter, snowmobile and big-wheel truck across some of the world's most volatile landscapes.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 2142 GMT (0542 HKT)
Construction begins on a new Singapore airport complex that could make delays and layovers a pleasure.
December 9, 2014 -- Updated 1441 GMT (2241 HKT)
Inflight chatterboxes are annoying but they're not the worst violators of onboard etiquette, according to an Expedia study.
December 8, 2014 -- Updated 2232 GMT (0632 HKT)
These statues are awe-inspiring even for the strongest of non-believers.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT)
The Palace of the Parliament, built by former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
25 years after the death of Romania's communist dictator, tourism is helping heal old wounds.
December 5, 2014 -- Updated 1152 GMT (1952 HKT)
Photo sharing website names the top 10 destinations for geo-tagged snapshots.
December 3, 2014 -- Updated 1005 GMT (1805 HKT)
New York may be a paradise of Zagat-rated, Michelin-starred restaurants, but some of its best food can be found on the streets.
December 2, 2014 -- Updated 0601 GMT (1401 HKT)
Guide Lebo behind the wheel of Chobe Game Lodge's first electric game viewing vehicle, at Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Chobe Game Lodge in Botswana ups the eco stakes with what it claims is world's first battery-powered safari fleet.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
These quirky and beautiful subway stops make standing cheek-to-cheek with 45 strangers almost seem fun.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1314 GMT (2114 HKT)
A scene from a desert safari in Dubai
Luxury vintage Land Rover tours explore Bedouin backwaters without bashing up precious dunes.
ADVERTISEMENT