Design / 11 Nov 2022
Creator Series: Photographer Jeff Hagerman

Welcome to our very first “Emini’s Creator Series”! We’re talking to Jeff Hagerman, also known as @sloppystick. He’s an Atlanta based photographer who also happens to be a long time friend of ours.

Jeff’s particular aesthetic could be described as dark, surreal, and somewhat grimy but in the best way possible. He has more than 17.5 thousand followers on his Instagram account and his feed is filled with haunting images of buildings and locations that have been, or seem to have been, abandoned for years. Jeff visits the kinds of places most of us don’t, capturing scenes that seem almost frozen in time.

atlanta photographer jeff hagerman sloppystick

                              Image credit: Jeff Hagerman Photography

Meet Jeff…

Tell us a little about yourself…Where are you from?

I grew up in a small South Alabama town called Lillian, but I’ve lived it different parts of Atlanta and the surrounding areas for close to 15 years now.

How long have you been doing photography and how did you first get started?

I’ve always liked taking pictures as long as I can remember. Whether it was on vacation or at car shows or whatever, I was always taking pictures, and I’ve always enjoyed looking at good photography, but I’ve just started to get more interested in being creative with photography for the last 3-4 years. It was really the introduction to Instagram that made me get more serious with it.

What drives your passion and where do you get your inspiration?

I really get my passion from going to crazy locations and sharing photos from places most people will never get the chance to see. My inspiration comes mainly from my friends. I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of great people through photography, and we spend a lot of time sharing photos and ideas, and really pick each others’ brains.

atlanta photography hdr abandoned asylum

                              Image credit: Jeff Hagerman Photography

Your photos have an interesting contrast and juxtaposition element. Tell us a little about how you decide what to photograph and what first drew you to this style of photography?

I was immediately interested in HDR photography the first time I saw it. Especially shooting indoors, with windows, being able to capture the inside of the room and whatever is outside the window, it just felt like it was more like what my eyes were seeing when I’m there.

Your photos are often of places that are abandoned and look like maybe you aren’t exactly supposed to be there. Are you able to stay out of trouble for the most part?

For the most part, I’ve been able to stay out of trouble. I was with some friends, in another state at an abandoned prison, and we made the stupid mistake of trying to run from security. The security turned out to be the real police and we all got busted. We had to come back a month later for court and everything. It was a bit of a pain in the ass, but it could’ve been worse. Definitely more run-ins with aggressive homeless people and drug addicts. We’ve seen some pretty crazy stuff.

What are some of the things you’ve seen?

The craziest of all time is the “furious masterbator”! A really big guy walked into an abandoned cabinet warehouse, so we hid in the back in the shadows. He proceeded to roll a blunt, started drinking a 40, then started pleasuring himself. It was tough not to laugh, but at the same time I was kinda scared for my life. I’ve also seen a guy taking a dump behind a school, in the open, in broad daylight and some naked guys in one of the most disgusting, toxic places I’ve ever been to. I have tons of stories. No ghostly encounters….yet.(Click to read the full story about the “furious masterbator)

atlanta photgrapher hdr abandoned building

                              Image credit: Jeff Hagerman Photography

What are some of your favorite places to shoot? 

My favorite places to shoot are obviously abandoned places, but more specifically asylums and prisons. There’s just always a deep history attached to those places that you don’t have with the newer factories and stuff. Some (maybe all) of the asylums that I’ve been to have a history of crazy medical experiments and mistreatment of patients. I stood inside the execution chamber where 150 prisoners were executed. That’s pretty crazy. Last weekend I was at another prison with an original cell still there from the 1850s. I’ve been unbelievably lucky.

Do you have a favorite photo you’ve taken?

If I had to pick a favorite photo, I’d say it is an older one that I took from inside the abandoned Constitution newspaper building looking out at the Georgia Dome. It’s just an interesting juxtaposition of the messy interior of the abandoned building and the big, beautiful dome right in the center. I’m sure there are very few people that have enjoyed football games there that even know this old newspaper building exists.

Other reasons it’s my favorite photo are the history behind the building – it was home of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper until it merged with the Atlanta Journal in 1953, and because of how hard/scary it is to get in – the only way in, at the time, was to crawl under a garage door that was slightly open, into a pitch black room.

Aside from the entry, it’s still the most disgusting building I’ve ever been in, full of trash and even human feces. Oh, and there were probably 15-20 people living in there too.

atlanta photography georgia dome

                              Image credit: Jeff Hagerman Photography

If you could go anywhere with your camera, where would you go?

If I didn’t have to worry about my health, I would go to either Pripyat (Chernobyl) Ukraine or Fukushima Japan. More realistic locations, Belgium, Italy, or Japan. I need to get my passport, because I’m hoping to cross one or two of those of my list next year.

atlanta photographer hdr abandoned detroit

                              Image credit: Jeff Hagerman Photography

What’s in your equipment arsenal?

I shoot with a Canon 70D and my main lenses are my Sigma 8-16mm and Sigma 18-35mm. When I’m shooting abandoned spots, it’s almost always my wide angle 8-16mm. There are always tight spaces and I’m too lazy to keep switching lenses, so the wide angle just stays on my camera. Also, I use a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT large tripod and a small, carbon fiber 3pod P5CRH tripod, and I have a Manfrotto 496 head that I switch from one to the other.

What’s the best piece of photography advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece(s) of advice I got was when I first started. I was told to always shoot in manual and to shoot in RAW format.

Do you have any advice for someone new to photography and just getting started?

Someone just starting out should always be told to just shoot a lot. That allows you to really learn how your camera works and when you go back and look at your pictures, you can kind of figure out what you do and don’t like about your pictures. When you go back out, you’ll take more pics you like and less of what you don’t like. That’s how it worked for me anyway.

atlanta photography

                              Image credit: Jeff Hagerman Photography

Follow Jeff on Instagram @sloppystick


Check out 

where you can purchase prints and read about all of Jeff’s adventures on his blog.

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