I Was Here

It may seem strange that someone would want to visit the site of a mass execution, natural disaster, or nuclear meltdown. However many tourists travel to such destinations around the globe every year. Why they go is anyone’s guess—is it from a desire to honor the dead, learn from history, or simply morbid curiosity?

Ambroise Tézenas started pondering these questions when he read that the Queen of the Sea — a Sri Lankan train destroyed by the 2004 tsunami in what was one of the worst rail accidents in recent history—had become something of a tourist attraction. Tézenas had been in Sri Lanka photographing the aftermath of the tsunami four years earlier, and couldn’t reconcile his memories of death and destruction with people’s fascination with the site.

This dichotomy prompted Tézenas’ research into dark tourism, an industry that draws travelers worldwide to the scenes of some of history’s worst accidents and atrocities. The more he learned about humanity’s fascination with evil and death, the more he wanted to photograph it.

His photo book, I Was Here, features more than a dozen dark tourist destinations around the globe. Much like the subject matter, the images are starkly unsentimental. Working with a large format camera on a tripod, Tézenas mostly captured the landscapes of these sites—commemorating genocide, assassinations, mass executions and nuclear disasters—at a clinical distance.