I think I know why my first trip to Ambassador was so, well, unrewarding. It has been a while since I’ve photographed a derelict apartment building, and something like that you have to approach very differently from a large industrial derelict like Grief Brothers.
Apartment buildings tend to be pretty empty and the same on every floor; you may get a coat hanger here and there, perhaps the odd couch or armchair, but nothing to make a focal point. With Ambassador you run the risk of making your focal point the great outdoors, especially when you’re shooting HDR. This obviously runs counter to the idea of photographing the building itself. This time around I thought things out a little better.
This is the Ambassador Arms Apartment building, seventh floor.
One of the most striking things about Ambassador is, of course, the large gaping holes on the exterior of the building. The fact that part of the west face and all of the south face of the building wears no facade and sheds terra cotta in even the most gentle breezes is hard to convey in an interior shot.
This time I think I managed to take the shot I had wanted the first time around. There are no walls in this apartment, only the doors remain.
I also managed to quell my fear of tiny yet mostly open staircases and climb up to the penthouse.
I even wandered out onto the rooftop to check out the little garden there. This was once the dream apartment, huge with a private rooftop garden looking out from the tallest building in the area. Now it could easily double as a set for a post-apocalyptic horror drama.
I don’t make it a point to keep quiet about the fact that I have a significant fear of heights, or that I get really bad vertigo any time I am above the third floor. Usually this isn’t an issue in my regular life as having solid walls around me helps to contain my fear and calm my vertigo. Yet my hobby and passion is in urban exploring and solid walls are in short supply, especially when exploring the fantastic Ambassador Arms which we’ve been posting about recently.
This trip challenged me in more ways than photographically. It challenged my fear of heights, and my paranoia of the crumbling nature of the edifices we scramble through. This was the first time a floor actually gave way beneath my foot while attempting to scurry over a pile of fallen brick and pyrobar and I just happened to be right next to a gaping hole in the wall, on the seventh floor. I was already afraid before the floor gave way so when it did I went straight to terrified.
Somehow I managed to keep my balance and shift my weight to the other foot before I had sunk past the top of my boot. Using my tripod as a walking stick and balancing device I extricated my foot and kept moving forward.
That, was the key, the moving forward. If I had backed away and sought another view, I would have failed this test. I did not even realize until I had gotten home that night that it was a Test. So often in life, I, like everyone else, have allowed the fear of what might happen to prevent me from going ahead and doing something that I might enjoy. When confronted with a small taste of what might go wrong, I would back down, give up and be slightly envious of those who kept going and returned to me glowing with joy and satisfaction in a mission accomplished.
I refused to give in to the fear this time, not by blindly leaping forward or by slowly backing away either. I considered for a moment, reevaluated my surroundings, and chose a slightly different path which would still lead me to my goal, an open view of downtown Gary , perhaps one framed by the falling bricks of the upper floors of Ambassador. My heart was pounding and my nerves on edge but I wanted this and would not be denied this time.
My reward was greater than the view of the Gary Steelworks and Knights of Columbus building.
It was even greater than the amazing view of City United Methodist Church that I had from my seventh story perch.
This time I conquered my fear, I sanely and rationally responded to a fear inducing event and I did not allow the voice in my head that screams at me “Run, run away!”, and went forward, listening to the quiet voice that said “Go forward, slowly. Be calm and see things for what they are.”
Were I listening to the quiet voice to begin with, I would have never broken through the floor, but then I would have never overcome my terror either.