In August of 2014—two years and seven months after the cruise ship the Costa Concordia sank off the coast of the Tuscan island Giglio, claiming 32 lives—photographer Jonathan Danko Kielkowski swam aboard to document what was left.
At that point, the ship had only recently been raised from the bottom of the ocean, having spend two and a half years partially submerged—a home for sea life and wild superstitions about how its sinking was some sort of omen. After all, it did sink almost exactly 100 years after the Titanic.
But Kielkowski wasn’t going there to document fantasy. He wanted to capture raw, abandoned, decrepit reality.
To his credit, when the ship arrived in Genoa to be scrapped, Kielkowski tried to get a permit and capture the photos legally. But a permit was impossible to acquire, and after being turned back by the Coast Guard once, he tells DIYP he finally succeeded in swimming to the ship in the dark, camera gear and clothes towed along in a small rubber dinghy.
He got in, set up, and once the sun came up he got to shooting. Using his Canon 5D Mark II with a EF 16-35mm F2.8 attached and a small, sturdy tripod, he wandered around the wreck for 6 hours and captured some 500 photos.
“It was pitch black inside the wreck and most parts of the ship had no lights installed at that time,” he wrote in response to one photographer’s criticism, explaining how the photos were captured. “The expose time for most of the images is well over 5 minutes.”
Technique aside, for Kielkowski, those photos provide a distant echo of the nightmarish fear 4,000 passengers must have felt as they tried to evacuate a sinking ship.
The photos above and many others besides were eventually collected into a photo book, Concordia, published by White Press. To learn more about or order the book, visit this link. And if you’d like to see more of Jonathan’s work, visit his website or give him a follow on Facebook and Instagram.
All photos © Jonathan Danko Kielkowski, used with permission.