By Nicola Depuis
Old abandoned convents, asylums and schools can often conjure the macabre to mind, and not too many of us would be found walking their dust-filled eerie corridors alone. However, 23-year-old Carrigaline born photographer Sam Milner is an exception.
Although Sam spends many an hour photographing debs and other people-centred events, Sam’s passion is abandoned buildings. ‘It’s because of the history and how exhilarating it is to wander the abandoned halls with nothing but a camera for company,’ says Sam who has been exploring uninhabited buildings since the age of nine.
‘I find it interesting how humans can rely on something like the convent for years to provide a service or shelter and then one day just walk out and not come back. I guess you could also say I’m an adrenaline junkie and the excitement I get in these places is ridiculous. Spending hours walking around somewhere that used to be filled with people and is now just left there fascinates me.’ Amongst the many derelict buildings Sam has captured in his wonderfully atmospheric photography, is an abandoned chlorine plant, a closed-down French vocational school, the Police Federation Country Club in Northern Ireland, Puxley Manor in Berehaven, St. Senan’s Psychiatric Hospital in Enniscorthy and various buildings in Berlin.
One of the first places that piqued his interest is the old abandoned Sisters of Mercy Convent and school in Passage West. ‘My dad lives in Passage so I used to walk past the convent and school daily. I heard stories about it so I knew I had to get inside to experience it myself.’ Sam describes himself as always being a nostalgic person. ‘The idea of having a moment frozen in time fascinated me, so I picked up a camera when I was quite young. My dad was a photographer as well, he still does it now and then but he inspired me to take up the hobby.’ Over the years, Sam visited the convent and school four times. ‘It’s a huge location so I’d say I spent three hours in there at a time photographing as much as I could, it was so silent and vast,’ says Sam. ‘Structurally it’s in a very bad condition. If I’m honest, there’s something very eerie about it. I found old French copies and paintings done by children who had passed through the halls. It was so silent and vast.’ Asked if he ever takes anything away from the buildings he visits, Sam answers: ‘No, I wouldn’t do that. I prefer to leave with just photos and leave everything the way I found it. I’m a big history geek and some of the stuff I come across in these buildings stretches back over decades and they’re just left there for me to find. It’s amazing.’
Sam has also been inside the abandoned orphanage in Passage West. ‘The orphanage was terrifying. I had horrible, horrible feelings when I was in there.’ Sam says although he doesn’t believe in ghosts or spirits, sometimes he does get scared. ‘I’ve never seen or experienced anything, but there have been times when I could feel a sense of dread in the air…especially in the orphanage and the asylums.’ Sam says he spent six hours in the asylum in Wexford because it was so big. ‘The majority of the time I go to these places alone, it’s quite therapeutic I find. I don’t ever bring headphones. I find the silence is relaxing.’ Sam also found his experiences with Pieta House therapeutic. Later this year Sam will be taking to the skies to raise funds for the organisation. ‘Anyone who has suffered mental health issues knows how daunting and scary it can be looking for help, but when I first went to Pieta House they were the kindest and most helpful people around. Pieta House changed my life, and I feel now is the time to give back. I will be doing a skydive to raise money for them and to help support the amazing work they do for people in need. Any donations, no matter how big or small, would be greatly appreciated.’
For more information about Sam’s work and Skydive for Pieta House, go to: www.facebook.com/sammilphotos/
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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