Rooftops & Relics–Chasing Shadows With Trashhand

October 11, 2018

I have known Trashhand for several years now.  Not only is he one of my favorite photographers, but I also consider him a friend.  I had been threatening to get out to Chicagoland for a minute and was glad the trip finally came together.

The crew and I got into the city late on Saturday night, and got situated in the hotel, which involved a mix-up and bunk beds, but we won’t dwell on that.  We got up early on Sunday to meet up and map out our plan of attack.  We were going to put the new HEX camera bags to the test out in the real world of urban exploration.  Trash had done recon on some spots ahead of our visit and so we put together an ambitious plan that included rooftops, streets, bandos, and a trip across state lines.

Once we set off, I was able to get a solid workout in because we started climbing stars, a lot of them, to get up through a few security doors, and out on a roof in downtown Chicago.  The views were amazing, the edges were close and drop-offs were huge.  It was a beautiful bright day with cloud cover and we quickly sneaked around the roof and watched Trash do his thing.  Something that is not so obvious in the aerial photos you see is the wind factor.  The wind was no joke.

One thing people may not know about Trashhand is what a great storyteller he is.  Clearly he has had many adventures and recalls them easily and vividly.  I was never bored.  There seemed to be a story around every corner and it really helped me understand what Trash is really up against to pursue his art.

We had also planned to explore some abandoned buildings.  This is something Trashhand is known for and it could be said that he was one of the first pioneers to really bring out beautiful images from dilapidated and decaying bandos.  You don’t get these kind of images without a fight and Trash’s stories really brought this side of his work to light.  Not surprisingly, you generally find the derelict spaces that form Trashhand’s canvases in some tough areas of town.  This was definitely the case as we wove through the small streets of forgotten neighborhoods that existed somewhere between better days gone by and the environment reclaiming them as its own.  We were on high alert.  All the time.  Looking over our shoulders, trying to read the intentions of the people we would see.  I loved it.  Something about those empty, unused, once-used places was as Trash put it, “Special.”

We explored churches, schools, gymnasiums, banks, and theaters.  All abandoned.  All in various states of decomposition.  Again, this told me a lot about a guy that would climb and crawl into spaces like these before the sun came up, to avoid the cops, to sit in the dark and wait for first light to get the image he wanted.  I’m not sure I would want to be anywhere close to these places in middle of the non-electrified night. 

Another thing you may not realize about Trashhand’s kind of art is that it really does involve a life on the run.  We ran up flights of stairs, ran for the cover of trees, and ran through knee-high grasses back to the car, leaving us with dozens of burrs clinging painfully to our clothes.  It seemed a fair price to pay for the adventure of seeing sights and places that surely would vanish into thin air one day soon.

So, these are a few of my memories from my long overdue, and too-short time with Trashhand.  He makes art out of the city grid and the lines and angles of its architecture.  He also captures the ghosts and echoes of places on their death bed that were once so full of life.  He does all of these things like an artist and a professional. 

Take a look at these photos and watch the video to see more and hear what Trashhand had to say about his experiences.  To see more from Trashhand, check out his Instagram Here.