Watch Nature Reclaim These Abandoned Buildings

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During the week, Jonathan Jimenez works in Paris as an investment analyst. On weekends and holidays, though, he transforms into "Jonk," a globe-hopping photographer who uses his camera to explore the forgotten corners of the world. He’s been living a double life since he was 17, when he spent a summer hanging out with graffiti artists in Barcelona, eventually adopting the nickname under which he still works.

“At the time, there was a huge graffiti scene in Europe, so I began shooting that,” Jonk says. “First I looked for graffiti in the streets, but then I started looking for hidden graffiti, so I went to abandoned places.” That work quickly lead him to a group of Spanish street artists and soon he took up painting himself.

Jonk’s fascination with graffiti culture led him into the world of urban exploration. He began spending his free time prowling the rooftops, subways, and abandoned areas of Paris, always with camera in hand. He spent whole days underground, tracing the city’s vast network of catacombs. His burgeoning career in finance gave him the means to travel even farther afield, visiting urban ruins from Croatia to Cuba.

For his first book, Jonk decided to focus on images of abandoned buildings succumbing to the natural world they were designed to keep out. The photographs in Naturalia: Reclaimed by Nature were taken in over 30 countries across four continents. "It is poetic, even magic, to see nature retaking what used to be hers," Jonk explains. "Reintegrating through broken windows, cracks on walls, spaces built by man and then neglected."

The book, which is being published this month by Carpet Bombing Culture, features an introduction by French historian and archaeologist Alain Schnapp, who describes Jonk’s photographs as “a long journey between memory and forgetting, ruins and vegetation, modernity and Antiquity.”

Jonk is already at work on his next book project, which will feature abandoned Soviet monuments he has discovered scattered across Eastern Europe. Like the images in Naturalia, these photographs will be devoid of human subjects—a deliberate choice. “Some people like to put models in front of these scenes, but that’s not my thing,” the photographer says. “I just want people to see the places, the spirit inside them.”

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