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Abandoned Places: David de Rueda capture the relics of Europe’s past

22,000 mile road trip unveils never seen before images of Europe’s forgotten places

Nikon has partnered with urban-exploration photographer David de Rueda to capture abandoned places in Europe that have rarely or never been photographed before. From the wreck of a Douglas DC-3 aircraft to two long-forgotten Soviet spacecraft, these images form part of Nikon’s Project Spotlight: Abandoned Places. David’s six week road trip covered nine countries in pursuit of these relics of Europe’s recent past – with a particular focus on the Cold War Era and exploring the former Soviet Union heartland.

In total, David travelled for 44 days, with the ambition to photograph these locations in a way that had never been done before. Particular highlights include the photography of:

Two prototype Soviet Buran spacecraft, rarely pictured together in an abandoned warehouse hundreds of kilometres deep in the Kazakhstan desert

The exploration of Chernobyl and the ghost town of Pripyat – from its highest building, to the remains of Pripyat hospital, to the inside of a nuclear power plant cooling tower

The long-forgotten wreck of a Douglas DC-3 aircraft, surrounded by the Polar Lights, on Iceland’s south coast

An abandoned radar station in the mountains of Italy, located after three hours of walking through snow over 50cm deep

“Nikon challenged me to create and complete my dream photography project, with my own imagination being the only restriction,” says David de Rueda. “This was an opportunity to challenge myself and push my urban exploration photography to another level. For me, the abandoned places of Europe’s recent past were an obvious choice. I see discovering the hidden side of such locations as a kind of modern archaeology that, when coupled with the artistry a photographer can bring, should capture the imaginations of many.”

Project Spotlight is an initiative from Nikon designed to shine a light on those photographers who are pushing the boundaries of photography in some way. It focuses on individuals that bring a singular perspective to their work and aim to capture images that haven’t been taken before, working with them to turn their dream photography project into a reality. David was chosen for his unique ability to capture the aesthetic beauty of derelict buildings. He has ventured into impenetrable environments, laden with mystery, with the aim of photographing them and making them visible. A recent trip to the heart of abandoned America saw him take striking photographs illustrating the hidden life of the unusual places he visited.

The route

Paris – Milan – Kiev – Pripyat (Chernobyl) – Moscow – St. Petersburg – Tallinn – Budapest – Sofia – Reykjavik – Kyzylorda (Kazakhstan) – Larnaca (Cyprus) – Paris

The kit

During the project, David using the following equipment:

Nikon D810

AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

AF-S NIKKOR 50mm F1.8G

AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

About David de Rueda

David de Rueda was born in Poitiers in 1987. From a family of artists, the Franco-German photographer and director has practiced urban exploration since his teenage years. He is a self-taught photographer and, at the end of 2013, his work was shown at La Samaritaine for a contest organised by LVMH. In 2014 he released his first movie, Urban Escape. He has also collaborated on the direction of music videos for Kery James, Maître Gims and other artists.



Ben Whitmarsh is based in London & Berkshire, UK. He has a background in broadcast journalism and is involved in creating travel video content.



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