Today, I have a nice interview with Brian Cummings, of 781 Photography, one of the best photographers on the North Shore. We get a bit local here, and talk a lot about the variety of places Brian has explored, and more.
I have been a big fan of Brian since I saw one of Route 1’s staples, Hilltop Steakhouse, being torn down. He was there on the site, from the days before it was taken down, to the day they tore the place down, to photograph its final moments. His work has been showcased on news stations around the North Shore, well deserving of that. He calls it “luck” but his work is nothing short of hard work and dedication.
Speaking to many explorers before, a lot have the same thing in common, their hatred for vandals. A lot of photographers refuse to give out locations of their filming spots simply for this reason. Once word gets out that a place is abandoned, people go in there and go haywire. It’s beautiful to see a place naturally decaying and being reclaimed by nature, which has been shown in many of Brian’s photos. Speaking of them, here’s a few to get you warmed up!
Brian is a local guy from Lynn, MA. He often finds himself traveling to many far away places like upstate New York to take photos of a psychiatric hospital, and to locations in Connecticut. Wherever he is with a camera, is something that is not to be missed. We have a nice chat about the various places he’s been, and get the in-depth story of these places you may have seen on his page, or even been to when they were once a booming place to be! Sit down, relax, and get to know Brian Cummings and his photos better!
Me: Okay Brian, it’s nice to finally be able to sit and talk with you. I’ve been a huge fan of your photography since I saw your pictures of the Weylus Restaurant in Saugus. How long have you been a photographer and when did you know it was for you?
Brian: Thanks Joe, I have been shooting for about 9 years or so, and I knew it was for me the minute I picked up a camera.
Me: How did you get into photography?
Brian: It all started at car shows, seeing the images people were creating with their cameras. I used to attend car shows all the time with my car, and seeing my pictures from other enthusiasts, I was instantly hooked.
Me: Awesome! What kind of car were you showing there?
Brian: I had a 2004 VW Jetta completely modded out. I put a lot of money and heart into it, and seeing it in pictures just got me.
Me: Sweet! Now let’s get into your photography in abandoned buildings. When did you start taking a liking in abandoned places, or exploration? What makes you want to keep exploring?
Brian: The abandoned buildings have been my real passion for the last 3 years. I love the history and decay of places. I hate graffiti in places, or damage from people. When it gets destroyed I don’t even waste my time. What makes me want to keep exploring are the great group of friends I have to shoot with. I barely go alone, it’s extremely dangerous, but I’ve done it.
Me: It is definitely a dangerous hobby to have, but a thrilling one at that! Without giving exact location, what was the most dangerous explore you’ve done? With as much detail as you can give.
Brian: One of the toughest ones was in New York. It was a huge psychiatric hospital with at least 10 buildings, and I was there with a model shooting her pictures. I had a bit of a scare in one of the children’s units. I am not into the paranormal stuff at all, but I became a believer afterwards. Myself and the girl I was with heard a Pinky Ball bouncing on the floor above us, 3 different times. I never notice these things, ever, but it was clear as day. The only ones in the building were us and the pigeons coo-ing, plus, it was 6 in the morning. We left the building immediately afterwards, and believe it or not, I found a kids hand scratch on one of my butt cheeks the following day. The model I was with was bruised on her breast and thighs. Like I said, I was not a believer in that until it happened to me, so that was a pretty dangerous explore.
Me: Wow, that would make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end! Guess you won’t be revisiting! You’ve explored a number of different places, from schools, to psych wards, and old restaurants. Do all these places have a distinction in atmosphere, or do they all feel dead and empty inside?
Brian: Pretty much just dead silence. For me, the biggest deal is me being able to capture wheelchairs, not sure why, but I feel it’s a huge accomplishment. I was very fortunate getting into Weylus and capturing the place before the graffiti artists came. They were immediately after my pictures went viral online.
Me: I’d love to dive into Weylus, that place was forever an amazement of mine. Your pictures really bring the place to life. How bad did it stink in there, though? Looked real dirty, like they just picked up and left.
Brian: No stink at all, it was really cold the day we went in December. We got inside before sunrise, what I call a predawn explore.
Me: What was the coolest room in there? Any high-end offices or anything untouched?
Brian: The best part, for me, was the main staircase and elevators going upstairs. The work it took to build that and the pictures I got blew me away. I remember those stairs when I used to go there with my friends for drinks when I was 21.
Me: It’s crazy, I remember being little and being blown away by that place and how amazing all the fine details were. The Hilltop Steakhouse. You were there taking photos the day it was torn down, what was that like for you?
Brian: I was fortunate enough to have permission to be there the days before it was torn down to shoot the entire place including the meat market. I felt like a kid again being inside with my mom. Being inside Frank’s(Giuffrida) office was pretty cool. Empty inside but so much room, and I was fortunate enough to get a few shots of the heavy equipment tearing it down, thanks to Gennaro Anguillo from G/J Wrecking and Towing.
Me: You do so many explores in a variety of places, but that’s just the beginning. You’re everywhere a camera is needed! Besides abandoned places, what are your favorite type of shoots?
Brian: Ahhhhh this is the question I like. I love horror and I love shooting anything that has to do with horror. A lot of my abandoned stuff, you may see masked people in my shoots. I collect masks from mask makers on Facebook, and anytime I can add a twist in my shoots, I’m all for it. I don’t mind shooting people, but I can do without, like portrait work, weddings, etc. I will do it, but it’s not my favorite stuff. That’s horror.
Me: Before we part ways, I’d love to know how you felt about your work getting news recognition? You’ve clearly worked hard for that.
Brian: It’s nice getting recognized, it truly is. I actually think it’s all luck, but I will take it… I am hoping it will pay off when I retire from my full-time job at the T. On another note, stay tuned for something really big in the next few weeks. I have all the pictures I have been sitting on for over a year and I am about to release them. These pictures will be as big as Weylus and the Hilltop.
Me: I guess I’ll have to stay tuned like everyone else. Brian, thank you so much your time. It has been a real pleasure to have you!
Brian: Yes sir, thank you for your time Joe!
You heard it here, folks, stay tuned to Brian Cummings on his Facebook page 781 Photography and believe me when I say this, he is not a man to underestimate. When he says there’s something big coming, you better be prepared! You can also find him on Instagram for more of his amazing work and keep up with him!
Since starting this website in December of 2015, I knew I was on a journey I would love. Since then, I've been behind every fine detail of my website. Here, you will find posts that go from satire, to music reviews, to even posts about my favorite urban explorers! The list goes on, and I hope you're here for the list to continue to grow!