British photographer Rebecca Litchfield specializes in finding beauty in ruined architecture. For her latest book, Soviet Ghosts, she took a trip through the abandoned and decaying buildings of Eastern Europe, from eastern Germany to Chernobyl to Estonia.
Her eerie photos, devoid of signs of recent human life, depict sites rarely seen by Western eyes, like a Russian tuberculosis hospital, the inside of the Buzludzha monument–a spaceship-shaped building erected in communist Bulgaria in the 1970s–or the Tuefelsberg spy station where American spies gathered intelligence on East Germany during the Cold War.
Along the way, Litchfield surreptitiously visited heavily guarded and secret locales where she was not always received warmly. After she and her guides were caught trying to photograph a top-secret radar station, they were interrogated at a Russian military base for 10 hours and accused of being spies. (They were eventually let go.)
Many of Litchfield’s adventures took her inside a system of Soviet military bases, towns, and hospitals in Eastern Europe that was no longer necessary after the union was dissolved. Her images document the persistent vestiges of Cold War infrastructure, like a Bulgarian-Soviet Friendship monument, a 10,000-ton concrete tribute to a superpower that no longer exists.
“Some people may see the ruins of this time as destructive, but I see the beauty in the decay, like a memory hanging on that will soon be lost in a breeze, a museum that no one gets to see,” Litchfield writes in a blog about the book.