Gallery : Personal Work – Orphanage

In addition to my fascination for trash and refuse, are abandoned buildings. From my very early years as a photography student, I have been visiting sites of buildings and spaces discarded by humans. For whatever reason whether it be financial, weather events, death or even "acts of God", these structures once valuable and prized, are now left to decay. Aside from the blatant waste of resources, it blows my mind that someone can go to the trouble of creating something as large as a building, and then simply abandon it. These structures stand unused and unwanted, succumbing to vandals and the elements, further decaying and wasting away until all that can be done with them is to demolish them.

St John's Orphanage in Goulburn, a country town in New South Wales Australia, is one such place. Originally a home for children run by the Catholic Church, the building was completed and opened in 1913 and served many years as an orphanage for both boys and girls. The site has stood empty since the 1990's and has been mostly destroyed by what some reports say, was a deliberately started fire. It is an eerie place filled with echoes and bangs and from personal experience, not the most pleasant to visit on your own (as I did). As you walk about the building, one can see remnants of original period architectural fittings such as beautiful tiles and arches, rooms filled with all manner of unusual trash (one room was filled with what looked like empty hair product bottles), graffiti and even an old dormitory bed hanging through the floor of the above ceiling.

I felt melancholy and was filled with trepidation when visiting the site and moved my way quickly through the building photographing these interior images in an attempt to capture the remaining beauty, and the sadness of a space once occupied by unwanted children in early twentieth century country Australia. The stories that I have since read in researching the orphanage report much abuse and suffering of the children at the hands of older students and caretakers and offer an insight and history into an unimaginable life for any of us today.

Whilst I remain a little optimistic that something will come of the building before it is too late to restore, it is very likely given how many years it has stood in its current condition, that it will end up existing only on the pages of a history book. I hope that these photographs help preserve what the magnificence of an example of early Australian architecture that is an important part of the history of the township of Goulburn.