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Piano sits in abandoned room.

A Requiem for Pianos; An Elegy to Time, Music, and Abandonment


Romain Thiery travels the world in search of abandoned pianos. A series of ghostly images is the result.

A piano is simply not an object that can be inadvertently lost. It may only be abandoned. That’s why a forgotten piano, one left to its fate, (unlike, for example, an umbrella) is a spectacle that few will see in the course of their lifetimes. It’s a phenomenon that fully reflects the melancholy in things that have come to an end. Photographer and pianist, Romain Thiery hunts for and photographs these oddities. The series of his images, a collection both magnificent and ghostly, is titled Requiem for Pianos.

“As a pianist myself, emotion takes over when I discover a neglected piano. This is the culmination of my art: my two passions are then united in one and the same feeling.” The French artist has traveled for more than four years in countries that have included France, Belgium, Italy, Ukraine, Germany, and Poland, in search of forgotten pianos. These are usually left by the owners at houses or other spaces abandoned at some point in the past. Thiery notes that the pianos are even ignored by looters who’ve otherwise emptied these same places.

The photographs are deeply intimate. They place us in rooms which tell their own stories: their curtains stained, their wallpaper peeling, carpets bleached out, and lamps broken. These invite us to ask who has passed through such a room. What happened here? And, above all, why has someone abandoned a musical instrument of this size and value? The protagonists of each image, they’re solitary characters and the bearers of an “arrogant beauty” (as Thiery puts it). Such pianos stand out from the silent stages of their backgrounds, despite the dust that covers them, their broken keys, or a lack of feet.

Portraits of these damaged, old instruments leave us feeling subtly disturbed. Thiery’s images cast a hypnotic spell that gives life to that which no longer exists, to that inhabited space, and to that no longer making music. It’s precisely this silent, spectral melody which incites all possible stories.


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