Photographer Jessica Katharsys: "Try Life Outside the Box"

Adventure. Freedom. New Ideas. There are many reasons to live your life off the beaten path. Photographer Jessica Katharsys is blazing a trail through a growing underground culture of urban explorers, seeking beauty amid the ruins of the past. Jessica spends her time delving into places most of us would pass right by. In doing so, she has found the proverbial keys to unlock some very haunting histories. Most importantly, she has found herself. 

Self Portrait of the Photographer

Explore along with us as Jessica gives us a glimpse into her journey. And be sure to check out the 3 reasons this beauty encourages you to live life outside the box.

"This is the entryway to what was once an opulent and very decadent hotel that was open from 1929 to 1978. It was hard not to feel a silent sense of wonder while standing there that day. I imagined all of the events and the people who filled this room, now floating around me like ash."

"This series of hallways and corridors belonged to an asylum that was built in 1927. Each building was like a maze, designed to keep people trapped inside. Old files littered the hallways. Some patients' names were changed to a generic first and last name, followed by a number. I wondered if Ann Smith #5 had family members back in Russia who were still looking for her. I realized that the people inside this building had been abandoned long before the building ever was."

"This is the foyer of an ornate temple and mosque that was built in 1908. The walls seem to contain the stories of a secret society, and the amount of money and wealth invested into building this shrine was of epic proportions. The entire surrounding neighborhood around it is entrenched in poverty and crime, but time seems to stand still within the walls of this massive building."

"This is the hallway entering into the women's ward in what was once a very violent prison and jail, active from 1979-1998. I was alone and ankle deep in water when I took this shot. I kept hearing the sounds of water dripping, birds chirping and voices talking in other areas of the jail. I'd like to say that you get used to that sort of thing after a while, but I never did. This was a place where I was not comfortable being alone for long periods of time."

"This cotton mill and village dates back to the 1880s. The whole area felt enchanted...protected and frozen in time. Inside, many things were left behind. You could learn a lot about the workers, about which areas of the plant were more dangerous than others, and what it looks like to just throw your hands up and walk away after more than 100 years."

"This is what an executive insurance mogul's office looks like. On the 13th floor of an art deco style building that was built in 1927, this office overlooks a fountain the size of a swimming pool. The walls are comprised of intricate wood paneling and the trim around the top contained varying symbols that were meaningful to the company's core values. I had more questions after leaving this place than I had before I ever made it in."

"In 1918, there was little to no differentiation for legal punishment for grown adults versus children and teenagers. This all girls training school was opened in an attempt to rehabilitate wayward young girls and keep them on the right path. The school stayed open for 90 years, despite legal scandals, fires and money issues. Some parts of the training school felt okay, whereas others felt very dark and had a strong presence, as though you could feel all of the bad things that had happened there. This room...was one of those darker places."

"A chair, two closets, and a few shelves are nearly all that remains in this classroom from a school that was built in 1936. The school was condemned in the late 90s, and the students were relocated to a new school just down the road. The desks, books, lead paint, asbestos ceiling tiles, and floors carpeted with mildew and mold stayed behind to tell the story. The hallways still seemed to be filled with children's laughter and some sort of lingering sadness. The trees and other various plants were moving in, over brick by brick, into each window."

"These shoes were in an upstairs closet in an old house built in 1908. It was as though the person who lived there never truly left. Other clothes were still hanging in the closet, along with wigs, gloves, and a fake fur stole. His shoes, and her shoes. I wondered what their life was like, and what it would be like to live in a Gold Boom town at the turn of the 20th century. They seemed to be doing pretty well for themselves, but even the well off struggled more than I, in all of my privilege, would ever know. It gives a real perspective."

"This ornate and elaborate hallway belonged to an insurance building, built in 1927. The wooden wall panels, falling ceiling panels and extravagant lanterns were mesmerizing. It was 20 degrees that day, but the decadence of this building seemed to keep me warm. I expected to find secret doors and hallways at every turn. Why would an insurance campus in the middle of an isolated forest need 3 buildings, one of which being 13 stories tall, as luxurious as this?"

Jessica's rationale for living life differently?

1. "Nothing in this life is permanent or guaranteed. The chances we have today may not be there tomorrow because we may not be here tomorrow."
2. "By living outside the box, I found and fell in love with myself and others in a way that I never would have if I had waited for permission, or for someone else to hold my hand and tell me where to go or what to do."
3. "There's cookies outside the box!"

Follow Jessica on Social Media:

Instagram: @jessicakatharsys
Flickr: KatharsysKreations

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