Thought-Provoking Photos Show Ruins Reclaimed by Nature

A photographer documents derelict sites around the world that are slowly being consumed by the natural world.

Naturalia II photographs of nature reclaiming abandoned sites Jonk

Jonk

Whether we are aware of it or not, hubris is the keystone of modern humanity. It's a misplaced belief that there is nothing in nature that we cannot conquer, and it's that unconscious arrogance which unfortunately informs our often fraught relationship with nature, manifesting in human-led extractivism and widespread environmental degradation, and the conceit that we can all fix it with some technological solution like geoengineering.

Sometimes we need to be reminded that eventually, nature will win—and it's us humans who need to catch up on that fact. In documenting abandoned sites of human activity which have been reclaimed by nature, French photographer Jonathan Jimenez (also known by his urban artist moniker Jonk) brings us to confront that haunting question of humanity's place on a finite planet, and what it might look like if humans refuse to heed nature's continuous volley of warning signs.

Naturalia II photographs of nature reclaiming abandoned sites Jonk
Jonk

Now published in a volume titled Naturalia II—the second of two volumes of photographic explorations of derelict homes, factories, and empty institutions—Jonk's photos document the slow process of nature overtaking these forgotten sites with lush greenery and new life. Even as the paint peels off walls, and idle machinery rusts, the eerie beauty of such overgrown scenes evokes what Jonk calls "infinite poetry."

Naturalia II photographs of nature reclaiming abandoned sites Jonk
Jonk

So far, Jonk has visited over 1,500 abandoned sites in 50 countries on four continents, visually documenting nature's inexorable march. Much of Jonk's interest in such decaying sites stems from a childhood interest in ecological issues, as well as an adventurous curiosity that led him to dabble in street art and urban exploration. As he explains:

"It is poetic, even magical, to see this Nature retaking what used to be hers, reintegrating through broken windows, cracks on the walls, spaces built by Man and then neglected, until sometimes guzzling them up entirely."
Naturalia II photographs of nature reclaiming abandoned sites Jonk
Jonk

Jonk's visual "chronicle of contemporary ruins" brings us to a variety of forlorn sites: a crumbling power plant in Italy, a dilapidated sanatorium in Lithuania, a massive pool in Denmark filled with grassy soil.

Naturalia II photographs of nature reclaiming abandoned sites Jonk
Jonk

The stark contrast between the human-built elements in Jonk's images and the quiet triumph of nature's birthright presents an important existential question as we come to a crossroads between sleepwalking into dead end of "business as usual," or embarking on a exciting but uncertain journey toward radical change:

"Man builds, Man abandons. Every time for his own peculiar reasons. Nature does not care about those reasons. But one thing is for sure, when Man leaves, She comes back and She takes back everything. [..] So, when Nature and Time will have taken back what Man abandons, what will be left of our civilization?"
Naturalia II photographs of nature reclaiming abandoned sites Jonk
Jonk 

Like the first volume, Naturalia II presents a sweeping visual catalog of how that question might be answered in the future, and how the ongoing ecological crisis is slowly but surely transforming these forgotten pockets of the world.

Naturalia II photographs of nature reclaiming abandoned sites Jonk
Jonk

Like the mighty ancient civilizations that arose and collapsed before us due to ecological pressures, Jonk's images imply that nature is saying something to us, and that we need to be humble enough to listen, as he muses:

"On the one hand, the situation has deteriorated even further with yet another species becoming extinct every single day. Global warming continues and has caused repeated natural catastrophes: floods, fires, droughts, etc. On the other hand, our collective awareness has widely increased. We are still a long way from the commitment needed to really change things, but we are heading in the right direction. Millions of initiatives have already emerged, and I hope that my photos and the message contained within them can play a small part in the collective challenge facing us all."

To see more, visit Jonathan Jimenez/Jonk and on Instagram. You can purchase the Naturalia II book here.