Whatever else, it requires bravery for a photographer to wander around abandoned buildings, subway stations, wave pools and other derelict remnants of the built environment. Vince Geier of Northside, who died in June at age 37, had it.
His friend Cathy Heil, who accompanied him (and others) into Detroit’s massive Michigan Central (Railroad) Station, empty since 1988, can attest to that.
“He knew how to get in — he had been pretty active in urban exploration,” Heil says. “He knew an area of the fence you could just scoot right through. It was in the day, early afternoon. He had his camera and tripod. He liked this poking around to see what people left behind; he was interested in seeing what was cast off and just left for ruin.”
The website www.vincinnati.com and its various links show the results of that exploration. There is the photo of Geier wearing a backpack and holding a flare that gives off fiery light as he walks into the awaiting blackness, like Werner Herzog exploring a cave. There’s the photo of a white room empty save for a white mailbox. There is another room, a green one where paint is peeling, that is home to a left-behind portable TV set.
And there is the nighttime view from high up inside a tower, overlooking an otherwise modern city.
“He loved the thrill of it,” recalls Annah Hayes, a Cincinnati friend who now lives in San Francisco. “He loved finding hidden gems, and also was really intrigued by how nature takes over structures when we leave. Some of his favorite things in the whole world were his adventures at Surf Cincinnati (water park) when it closed down. It was a big family favorite, and he found out how to get in and did one shoot in summer and one in winter.”
Geier, according to his friends, took thousands of digital photos — not all were about urban exploration. But rather than seek a professional career in the arts, he mostly shared them on the Internet or just left them in his computer.
While he appears to have had many dedicated friends and been outgoing, those friends say he also battled depression that led to his taking his own life. And now those friends are attempting to get his work better known and, in the process, raise money for Centerpoint Health’s outreach services, especially suicide prevention. Their Vincinnati event occurs 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday at The Mockbee (2260 Central Pkwy., Brighton). There is a $10 requested admission. From 7-9 p.m., there will be a silent auction of Geier’s prints plus work by other artists, booths of various types and cello music. From 9-10 p.m., auction winners will be announced, plus raffle giveaways. And from 10 p.m.-2 a.m., DJ sets will be featured.
Geier, from the Queens section of New York City, came to Cincinnati some eight or nine years ago for a wedding. “He returned home, packed up all his stuff, and was back here within a week or two,” Hayes recalls. “He really loved Cincinnati, was passionate about it, thought it had so much character.”
Geier’s mother, Donna Torres, will be coming from New York for the event. As a homicide detective, she’s dealt with suicides of young people and realizes depression is an illness that needs attention. She’s as happy about Vincinnati event as she is sad over her son’s loss. “It’s a big event and I’m very proud of them for doing this,” she says. “He was well loved.”
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