(CNN) — Brett Patman never wanted to be a photographer.
He started his career as a craftsman, working in a number of Australian factories, power stations and other industrial sites. But photography had always been his side passion.
“I bought my camera in 2011 and didn’t know what to do,” explains Patman. “I just started taking pictures of the skyline and the city and just taking standard postcard photos that everyone has seen a million times. “
It turned out that the answer was hiding in plain sight.
Patman began documenting some of his visits to industrial sites. But it was a disused location that sparked his interest the most – the abandoned Bradmill Denim factory in Yarraville, a suburb of Melbourne.
He went through an open section of fence and started taking pictures. What he didn’t know at the time was that he had just realigned his life.
Since 2011, Patman has traveled to abandoned locations across Australia to take photos – not just factories, but hotels, wool sheds, a former homeless camp and more. Now it’s his full-time career.
Stumble down Memory Lane
After Patman posted his pictures from the decommissioned Wangi power station in New South Wales, the trickle of comments turned into a deluge.
“There was this influx of workers and families and workers’ families and brothers and mothers and fathers, and everyone just joined in and said, ‘Oh, look. I used to work in this room. I used to work in this workshop. Do you remember Bob running the shop? God, he was hard to deal with,'” says Patman.
A boiler at the Wangi power station, which was shut down in 1986.
Brett Patman/Lost Collective
But not every place was associated with positive memories.
One of the most controversial recordings Patman made was at Callan Park Hospital for the Insane, a former mental hospital in the Sydney area. A government commission at the hospital found that a widespread culture of abuse had existed there.
At an event where Patman presented some of his photos, a woman in the audience spoke up and said her brother had been physically abused there and that it was not appropriate to take artistic pictures of a place where so many bad things happened had happened.
Patman acknowledges how many terrible things happened in Callan Park, but believes it’s important to document the bad as well as the good.
“I think it’s important to record history,” he says. “If it encourages people who have had a part of this story to come out and speak up, then to me it’s worth it.”