On her new book, Abandoned New York, she said, “In early 2018, I received an email from the publisher noting their interest in my urban exploration pursuits. The publisher was interested in my abandoned site photography from some New York state locations, such as Ellis Island’s Immigrant Hospital Complex, Dead Horse Bay, Catskill Game Farm, the ruins of Renwick Smallpox Hospital and Bannerman’s Castle, among other sites.”
“After a brief email give and take, I submitted a proposal with some writing samples and a proper selection of photos,” she said. “Once the proposal was accepted, I proceeded to the contract phase, and during phone discussions with the publisher, two more contracts for Abandoned Maryland and Abandoned Western Pennsylvania were added to my book projects list. I spent thirty-nine hours over one recent weekend writing proposals for future book projects, and consequently, it was not for naught as I signed five more book contracts making my total book projects at eight.”
Vasko acknowledged that she is fortunate to be able to marry her favorite interests: urban exploration photography combined with research and writing. “I loved conducting the historical investigation of the abandoned sites I photographed and turning this history into my writings sprinkled with some personal philosophical reflections,” she said.
Digital transformation of modern photography
On the impact of technology on modern photography, she said, “Technology impacts all relevant industries, and the photography industry is not an exception. Everyone has a cell phone, thus everyone has a camera and events are always at the ready for real-time documentation.”
“Digital photography has made photography cost-effective and accessible to the masses,” Vasko said. “Stand-alone cameras have technological advances too and allow for decent imaging in the auto mode. Good photography, however, is not necessarily great photography. Great photography has always demanded hard work, whether it is digital or analog, and still holds to endurance, commitment, instruction, creativity, and endless practice.”
In addition, Vasko noted that great photography requires the mastery of image processing software, such as Photoshop and Lightroom, as well as stepping in for the traditional darkroom. “These programs do not have intuitive learning curves and require instruction and much practice. Just as in traditional darkrooms, mastery of the digital darkroom often sets apart mediocrity from ‘wow’.”
Vasko remarked, “Technology and electronic gadgets, though, will never take the place of expertise and vision, and will never be a mask for sub-par technique in today’s daily avalanche of imagery. The usual pro photographer’s drone, ‘it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer,’ is gospel.”
As a photographer, Vasko avidly uses technology in her daily routine. “Technology is ever-present and accompanies every phase of photography. The camera body and lenses incorporate modern technology, such as electronic sensors, meters, and drives for capturing light,” she said.
She continued, “An electronic memory card holds the image data. The data on the memory card transfers to a computer hard drive with the image identification cataloged in a computer library and handed over to digital processing software, such as Lightroom and Photoshop, or specialty software such as Photomatix, or Topaz, for the creation of the end product. The processed image files are then uploaded to online directories, websites, and social media platforms, or transmitted electronically to clients.”
Advice for photographers
“I believe photography is a universal language, the written word is not necessarily required for a photographer’s story,” she said. “There are many photography collection books on the market, devoid of text, and it is obvious what their stories convey. I also believe the written word can enhance a photographer’s story. With my books, the written history of my abandoned site images adds another dimension of understanding as to why so many structures are forlorn.”
She continued, “All aspiring authors know it is a difficult road to a publishing house unless your name is Bob Woodward, or hold photographer names like Annie Leibovitz, or Pete Souza. My publishing agreements are not the norm in that the publisher reached out to me – this is rare. I still had to submit proposals, samples of photography and writing to prove that not only am I a photographer but one that can write as well.”
“In today’s publishing world, most hopeful writers must complete their manuscript and have an agent present the manuscript to publishing houses,” she further added. “The unfortunate reality is that publishers ignore most authors with no agents. Catching the eye of a publisher is a very competitive process and requires years of focus and perseverance. Nevertheless, even though my publishing agreements might be statistical outliers, my situation still presents some hope for photographer/authors that want to claim a footing within the publishing arena.”
Vasko continued, “I believe certain steps I took over the years attracted the interest of the publisher. Over the years, I made a point of uploading large files of my urban exploration photographs to several online galleries and made sure my photographs were embedded with keywords.”
She is the recipient of several photography awards, and she has a website. “I also authored many published articles, and my photos were featured in stories in several domestic and international media outlets. I would think exposure and prior publications are attractive to publishers and provide some marketing muscle for a photographer/author’s voice to be taken seriously. If one ever is fortunate enough to reach the publisher’s proposal phase, follow the proposal instructions to the letter and spend quality time on answers and presentation,” she said.
On her proudest professional moments in photography, Vasko said, “I am proud to have my photographs and writings preserved in books and grateful to earn first place awards in several photography contests as well as seeing my prints displayed in some prestigious galleries. My cherished moments, however, occur when my photographs attract the eye of an observer and prompt a viewer to pause or take a second look and join in with reactions that speak of beauty, happiness, hardship, sadness or even astonishment.”
When asked what motivates her each day, Vasko responded, “I am passionate about my urban exploration photography collections and persistently look forward to the next expedition with my magnanimous urbex friends. There is always an adventure on the calendar. I want to document a derelict site and hold this moment in history, as it might vanish tomorrow. I love that I have permanent records of some facilities that are no longer in existence.”
Vasko concluded, “Look through my eyes and discover a surreal world and a new way of examining our history where industry buckled, or ethos altered. Discover evocative stories and images of forgotten places in a world most will never encounter. Just as all living things surrender to the forces of nature, abandonments become nature’s victims as well. Be a witness to a bygone era as these sites will ultimately be embraced by nature’s final claim or face the kiss of the wrecking ball.”
Abandoned New York is available on Amazon.
To learn more about veteran photographer Cindy Vasko, check out her official website.