It probably isn’t right to be inspired by dilapidated former criminal hideouts. It probably shouldn’t be possible to see beauty in crumbling buildings whose walls have witnessed misdeeds. And it probably isn’t sane to be lured willingly into places that cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand on end. Yet each peel of plaster, each rusted-out bathtub and each hollowed-out hallway holds a richness of history just begging to be remembered. The stories are bone-chilling and unbelievable. The architecture is elaborate and embattled. The place is Hot Springs, Arkansas. —Brian Klutch
New York City-based photographer Brian Klutch is an advertising and editorial photographer, primarily known for his still life work. He recently sent out a promo featuring his new personal series, “Hot Springs,” architectural images of run-down hotels, that were once spectacular vacation destinations. In his artist statement, Klutch says, the town, Hot Springs, Arkansas, “was Las Vegas before Las Vegas ever was.” Named for it’s proximity to natural hot springs, the town began its development into a booming spa destination in the 1830s, adding fancy hotels, restaurants, underground casinos (gambling was illegal under Arkansas law), brothels, and later a horse race track. Hot Springs was frequented by the who’s who of their time—Mae West, Duke Ellington, Babe Ruth and Franklin D. Roosevelt. It all came to a close in 1967 after a massive government crackdown.
Klutch first visited Hot Springs in 2011 with his brother who works in the film industry, but has been there a few times since, focusing on six locations: Savoy Hotel, The Desoto, Duggan Stewart Building, Maxine’s Brother, The Majestic Hotel and The Arlington Hotel. Getting access to these abandoned buildings was a challenge, coordinating with owners and getting insurance certificates. It was slow-going, Klutch says. All of the images were shot digitally with either Canon or Hasselblad cameras.