Chris & Katie's Story
Vintage Americana is our world and roadside attractions are our playground. Join us as we explore the backroads of America and un-forget the forgotton.
"You don't have to be tall to see the moon" ~ African Proverb
When we step into the night, the rich darkness expands before us like a theater before a performance. We feel like conductors of a humble, but expansive orchestra. Each player has a crucial role - the moon, the stars, the lights and the time that passes - all have to harmonize to create a completed piece of work. For the colors you see bursting from broken windows and splashed across peeling walls haven’t been manipulated by technology. We create the color onsite, painting it by hand, so to speak. With the full moon at our side, we pop strobes and wield flashlights like paintbrushes across the interiors of these structures, capturing the vibrance through long exposure photography. The internal lights provide a warmth, a palpable sense of nostalgia to dark places you’ve never seen, but feel so familiar. Man-made light against the backdrop of natural history reminds us of our smallness in a way that is both intimate and intimidating.
Hold on, and let go.
One part night owl, one part old soul, one part weary traveler, Chris has spent most of his life exploring parts of the world people don’t give a second glance, if not a first! Growing up with a brilliantly artistic and talented father, Chris has always been interested in art. When he found that photography is what he’s best at, he searched for new types of subject matter and immediately became drawn to rust, dust, and decay. Over the last decade, he has combined his appreciation for urban and rural exploration with his cursed ability to stay up ’til dawn. Curious about the very young and burgeoning concept of night photography and “light painting,” Chris learned the basics from night photographer Troy Paiva. With a lot of experimentation, Chris put his own spin on the new technique and paved his way as one of the forerunning night photographers in the midwest. In addition to joining the large rank of urban and rural explorers, Chris tries to find a unique way of looking at these abandoned spaces. The terrible, but well-suited pun “shed new light” describes his mission, particularly to people who have no idea why there’s a guy out in the middle of nowhere climbing around an old farmhouse with colored flashlights when it’s 10 below zero.
Ever since she was a little kid, Katie has been obsessed with kitschy weird giant things. In her little hometown of Altoona, IA, she loved The Big Steer not because it was a local steakhouse favorite, but because of the huge fiberglass bull outside. At the nearby department store Richman Gordman’s, she begged her mom to climb around on the brightly colored fiberglass zoo animals. And downtown, in glamorous Des Moines, sat her biggest love of all: Crusoe the big green umbrella. She carried her love for kitschy weird giant things through her whole life. She wandered around in awe the first time she visited the House on the Rock’s ginormous whale, and the first time she drove past the Wisconsin Dells’ flipped over White House. So when she finally stumbled upon one Chris Robleski–whose love for kitschy weird giant things was plastered all over his Bay View apartment–she knew she met her match. Having recently gotten into photography herself, Katie soaked up as much as she could about Chris’s techniques, and when it’s dark, cold and very very late, she grabs a flashlight and sneaks into cob-webbed, mice-ridden, damp, moldy buildings to help Chris get the perfect shot (and she’s not afraid to tell him what looks like crap!).
About Fading Nostalgia
In 2009, Chris introduced Katie to the world of urban and rural exploration. Armed with cameras, Clif Bars and quite a bit of adventurous spirit, the two headed out into America. From the poverty-stricken streets of Gary, Indiana, to the dusty desert roads of Ludlow, California, every nook they explore has one thing in common: They've all been forgotten.
The year before they met, in 2008, Chris published a small book of Route 66 Polaroids called Fading Nostalgia. Two years later, while chatting over several cups of coffee, the seeds of a Fading Nostalgia website were planted. Katie snagged the domain and the two began to discuss what the site would stand for and how it would be utilized: photography, adventures, and history at the center.
In 2011, the website was finally solidified and launched, just in time to help "jumpstart" their plan to complete, design, print, and publish a full-scale reboot of Chris's first book. Polaroid Photos from Route 66 was born. Throughout 2012, Chris and Katie took to the road and sold their new book door-to-door, along the Route, from Chicago to Los Angeles.
Over the past few years, Chris and Katie have honed the focus of Fading Nostalgia, concentrating on their fine art night photography and light painting. Summers are filled to the brim with selling their work in art festivals. Winters packed with photo shoots under the full moon.
But no matter what, the Fading Nostalgia mission is always the same: Illuminate history.
ON THE ROAD
When we're not working in a corporate office, we're clamoring to hop in the car and head somewhere, ANYwhere--day or night, sweltering or sub-zero, near or far, sometimes very far. There is no building too forbidden, farmhouse too remote or road too meandering. Each location is a mini adventure unto itself with stories that need to be shared.
Embracing the abandoned
Crawling inside a room coated in grime, cobwebs and perhaps a little animal excrement won't stop our curiosity. There's nothing like the rush you get the second you know it's just you in there...or at least the squatters are keeping quiet! Suddenly you realize several hours have passed and you have only scratched the surface.
LOVING THE KITSCH
The plastic icing on the fiberglass cake of urban and rural exploration is stumbling upon a road trip oddity or finally visiting one we heard about only to discover that it truly is THAT odd!! America's road freaks become our friends away from home. Hoping, of course, that they aren't one day dismantled and disappear forever.
WE TRAVEL TO RUSTY, DUSTY, DERELICT PLACES SO THE ABANDONED CAN BECOME BEAUTIFUL ONCE AGAIN
Road trips, exploration stories, and sharing memories are always way more fun with friends, so join us on our search to uncover what this country so desperately needs: to remember and relish in its lustrous past.