Main image by Thomas Windisch

The first time I saw a disused petrol station I felt a strange mix of sadness and unease. I say this as someone who loves cycling and has very little love for cars.

But there was something so forlorn about seeing the rusted-up pumps and empty forecourt that still sticks in my mind today. I was captivated by it. By the dramatic contrast between how bright and busy it had once been with the state of decay it was now in. It was as if civilisation had an arrow next to it and it was definitively pointing down.

"Like moths working in reverse, we’re often drawn to the dark side of things."

This issue we take on the theme of darkness. Like moths working in reverse, we’re often drawn to the dark side of things. Why is that? Is it the result of reading too much apocalyptic fiction? Or tv shows? Or just the shrill war-cries on the internet, that gives us an unshakeable sense we’re living in dark times, never more than three beats away from it all crashing down?

Evening sun on Laguna Chaxa in the Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos (National Flamingo Reserva). Around one tenth of the flamingo population are now white, and will be ostracised from their colony

Yet sometimes these worries are justified and important. As Abi Butcher found when she went to the Atacama Desert in Chile to see with her own eyes how our quest for green energy, and our insatiable appetite for updating our phones and laptops, is causing chronic water shortages for local people and destroying the flamingo population.

Or when Guillem Sartorio Teixidó and David Meseguer had the experience of meeting up with Kurdish smugglers who hike across mountains as their economic survival depends upon it. A humbling photo story, which reminds us how lucky we are to choose to climb mountains for kicks rather than because our lives require it.



When Stuart Kenny went skiing in Val di Fassa in the Dolomites, a place of historic World War I battles that once saw an enormous loss of life, he gained the kind of perspective and insight you don’t usually get on your annual snow holiday.

Sometimes we go looking for darkness and get what we came for, along with perhaps a deeper understanding of the world as shown in the features above. Other times we go looking for darkness but instead find light. As Jack Clayton discovered when he went “champing" – that is camping in a deserted church at night. An experience he expected to find terrifying but somehow didn’t. For the most part anyway.

"Thomas Windisch loves to rediscover places humankind has forgotten about. For him there is always beauty in decay; light in darkness…"

We interviewed the Swedish skateboarder and photographer Sarah Meurle, primed to hear how hard it was to shoot photos in a Nordic country, with such long dark days throughout winter. But she told us she thought it was a boon for creativity there.

We also interviewed Thomas Windisch, who specialises in taking pictures of abandoned places. He told us it’s not an easy time to be an explorer when so much of the world is mapped, so he loves to rediscover places humankind has forgotten about. For him there is always beauty in decay; light in darkness.

We hope reading this issue will leave you feeling the same way.

Enjoy the issue.

– Sam Haddad, Senior Editor

Tristan Kennedy is away

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Hike or Die | We Meet the Kurdish Smugglers Climbing Mountains to Survive

White Flamingoes & Water Shortages | Is Green Energy Destroying This Corner of the Planet?