In my persistent search to find the best things for sale for Bitcoin on Etsy, I came across the UrbanDecayPhotos shop and was instantly captivated by the work. I’ve always admired urban explorers, for both their ability to find these amazing abandoned properties and their courage to actually go inside and explore the places that they find. While I’d be worried about running into a ghost or two, Adam Kohut, the photographer behind UrbanDecayPhotos, is more concerned about taking the perfect shot.
On his quest, Kohut explores everything from old hospitals to left-behind factories. His photographs give viewers the chance to see a glimpse of something they might never see. “A short time after we’re gone, this is what the world will look like,” he explained to me, describing how his work can act as a look into a future without human life. While Kohut wouldn’t share his secrets for scouting out locations (in part due to the potential for vandalism), he greatly enjoys sharing these different & unique viewpoints to his audience.
Kohut has been aware of Bitcoin since before the 2013 surge, and he currently accepts Bitcoin for all of his work. I spoke with him in more detail about his history as a photographer and his history with Bitcoin.
Emily Braun: How did you become interested in photography? And how did you get the idea to start an Etsy shop?
Adam Kohut: I went to school intending to get into 3D modeling and animating. At the time, my photography was limited to textures and reference images for the models. Taking pictures of flat surfaces gets boring pretty fast, as you might imagine. I started to stray, and I would shoot the cliches, like flowers, bugs, birds, someone’s cat, etc. Then one night, I was driving home from somewhere and passed a very cool abandoned barn. Something about it made me want to photograph it. I ended up standing in the middle of this narrow rainy road at 2AM, until I was sure I got the best photo anyone had ever taken of an abandoned barn. It was terrible, and I’d never show it to anyone now, but it served its purpose as a gateway barn.
Shooting abandoned places was initially just for my own enjoyment. I never thought anyone would want to see a decrepit, moldy, overgrown building. Over time, I saw enough people were into them and told me I should put them up for sale, so I finally looked into sites like Etsy.
Braun: How would you describe your photography aesthetic?
Kohut: I never really gave it a lot of thought until now. I tend to just go with what I think looks good in the moment. I definitely seem to lean towards symmetry. It’s such a contrast to the chaos in these places. Occasionally, it just fits the mood better to have more extreme angles and distortion, so I go with it. Overall, I really like dark and edgy – hard light, black shadows, blown highlights.
Braun: What aspect of abandoned properties is most intriguing to you? Why do you think they make such compelling subjects for your photos?
Kohut: For me, it feels like being in the past and future, all at once. A lot of times, people will leave things behind, like newspapers, clothes, documents, tools, or even family photos. I always wonder about the person that used to sit at a desk, using the typewriter now covered in dust. Or the little girl, who for some reason left her doll behind surrounded by broken glass. While we’re all here, we’re really just keeping nature from taking over. A short time after we’re gone, this is what the world will look like.
I think people enjoy photos like this because aside from them being a glimpse into the future, we don’t see this side of the world every day. Go to any arts & crafts show, and you’ll see a hundred backyard flowers, a thousand beach sunsets. People stop when they see the crumbling walls of a haunted, abandoned prison. They want to know its history and why it has been left behind.
Braun: How do you scout out new abandoned structures?
Kohut: Unfortunately, methods and locations aren’t something urban explorers like to share. The sad truth is that there are a lot of idiots out there who think nothing of trashing these places. One of my favorite images I’ve taken is a chair sitting by a door with an open book on it. I went back to that location some time later and found the chair in the road, smashed to pieces for no reason. On top of vandalism, the more popular a place is, the more likely it will be secured or demolished to prevent access.
If someone is interested in these places, I’d say to just enjoy the photos people take of them. If you really want to visit, find a group of explorers or photographers, gain their trust, and be safe.
Braun: You mentioned that you found out about Bitcoin prior to the surge in 2013. How did you first learn about it?
Kohut: I most likely heard about it in passing on tech blogs, but I don’t really remember. I just recall being familiar with the word when I heard it again on a comedy podcast I used to listen to, Nobody Likes Onions. The host was telling his co-hosts about it, and they thought it sounded crazy. I like crazy, so I decided then to finally do my own research into it.
Braun: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen with Bitcoin in the last few years?
Kohut: It went from something the general public had never heard of to being in the news fairly regularly. It was also on a pretty great sci-fi show called Almost Human as the main form of currency. In a very short time span, people misunderstood it, freaked out about it, became millionaires, and then came back down to Earth. Bitcoin has been the pogs of the internet (though hopefully with more staying power).
Braun: What aspect of cryptocurrency is of the highest interest to you?
Kohut: I’d have to say the larger implications of what it’s accomplished are the most interesting. The fact that a private citizen created this currency that, in a few years, spawned entire industries, along with some degree of panic in a lot of governments, is truly amazing. I hope it helps to show people that an individual with a good idea has a lot more power now than they used to. Innovation and change can’t be contained if the public supports it.
Braun: Where do you see the future of Bitcoin heading?
Kohut: I’m really hoping it leads to a better currency system than the one that we have. People kind of look at you funny when you first tell them about Bitcoin. Most think it’s interesting but dismiss it as another weird internet fad. However, if you look into our current system using fiat money, it inspires far less confidence than Bitcoin does.
Even more than that, however, I’ve read some really interesting ideas about using the Blockchain for a secure, tamper-proof voting system where you’d get near instant results. That’s world changing stuff.
Braun: Do you personally use Bitcoin? If so, what was your first Bitcoin purchase?
Kohut: I do use it here and there. In addition to Etsy, I let my headshot and real estate clients know I that accept Bitcoin, but so far, no takers. I think my first few purchases were for computer hardware from Newegg. I was checking out & saw they accepted it, and it was super easy to pay by just scanning the QR code on the screen. I think the price fluctuations made people nervous in the past. Now that the price is much more stable, I’m hoping more businesses will start accepting it.
– Emily Braun