Abandoned Places

The winter before last I was going a little stir crazy and mourning the lack of butterflies, birds and wildflowers to photograph. Winter is not my favorite season, and I needed something to distract me. We had recently moved to our current city, and one thing I noticed about our new home was the remarkable number of abandoned buildings.

I’ve always had a fascination with the idea of modern ruins. Maybe it was because I grew up reading science fiction when post-apocalyptic stories were popular. I was delighted a few years ago when there was a little flurry of pop culture interest in what the world would look like if all the people vanished. I bought Alan Weisman’s book The World Without Us. I became a big fan of the History channel series, Life After People. My favorite part of the movie, I Am Legend, were the scenes of the overgrown New York City (and that’s the only reason I would watch it again, because I just can’t take the scene where the dog dies again). When I walk our dogs through our neighborhood, I sometimes amuse myself by imagining what it would look like in a year, 5 years, 10 years and so on, if it were suddenly abandoned.

Recently I’ve been admiring a series called The Beauty in the Decay on a blog called Plucky Umbrella. She describes her series as “attentive to the intersection of nature with human-built things; how nature will have its way.” If you want to see some cool photos, you should check it out. Plucky Umbrella has inspired me to share my own photos.

That winter, I started by exploring the city and photographing boarded up urban buildings. I quickly discovered that photographing buildings is a lot different than nature photography and very challenging for me. I also learned that I prefer rural buildings that tend to be made of wood rather than brick and more vulnerable to being overrun by vegetation. And that looks cool. So here is my (still small) collection of abandoned places. Enjoy the ruin.

If you liked these, check out Abandoned Too for more photos of modern ruins.

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48 Comments

  1. BEAUTIFUL images! I too am enthralled with how Nature advances over the course of time, despite our best efforts. I love imagining places without civilization (it’s probably why I love hiking); I got hooked on the series “Life After People” as well (we’ve gotten caught up in a marathon of those @*# shows). I need to investigate the book (I’ve been suggested it by others), and thanks for the blog link, too. I always begin “I Am Legend” but have to stop before the brutally sad dog’s death (that’s an excellent book, too) — fortunately, “28 Days Later” doesn’t have any such scenes. Thanks so much for sharing… Great post, really stunning images.

    Reply
    • 28 Days Later was a truly creepy movie. Sounds like we have a bit in common. The World Without Us is excellent – well-written and engaging. It’s definitely worth your time. And thanks for the kind words. I take it as high praise coming from you. Your photographs are always so gorgeous.

      Reply
      • You’re so kind — I can’t wait to check out the book (moved to top of queue), and more of your ruins. 🙂

  2. plucky umbrella LOVES these photos and your writing about them. and, of course, i am honored that my series inspired you. i’d love to reblog, but not the whole post. those first few photos are fabulous for my series! would you consider sending me the photos so that i could post them? if yes: marymacgowan@yahoo.com i would, of course, give you full photo credit and point people toward your awesome blog.
    mary

    Reply
  3. Very beautiful.

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  4. love it-reminds me of some old family homes Ive photographed or have copies of

    Reply
    • I love old homes (especially intact). You should post them!

      Reply
      • Unfortunately. most of them are old and on 35 mm negatives- I just haven’t had the initiative to have them copied to a source I could get on the computer-a lot to them are genealogy pics-old family homes etc. Do you know a place that copies negatives to cd’s or such-if so, is it expensive?

  5. Paul J. Stam

     /  May 17, 2012

    Fantastic. I agree with you that rural old buildings are more interesting because of the natural growth and that overtakes them. I wonder if the brick buildings do not have the natural beauty because they have so much man made crap surrounding them that nature has a greater struggle to take over, but eventually…

    Reply
  6. Kate

     /  May 17, 2012

    I often catch myself making up stories about these types of places, peopling them with characters. Would love to know the history behind them, too. Great shots!

    Reply
  7. I love your pictures. We passed the old limestone ruins of a barn foundation on the weekend that I wished I’d been able to photograph – it looked beautiful with the early spring flowers growing all around it.

    Reply
  8. Wow, very, very nicely presented images. We have little of this stuff where I live. It rots away or gets blown down in a ‘cane. There are a couple old places tho.

    I too liked “The World Without Us.” One reviewer said it was morbid. I don’t think so. I think it is actually the opposite — reassuring to know the world will recover in spite of the terrible things we do to it.

    I especially like the 6th and 7th down, the detailed entryway and the green shutter against red house. Have you ever checked out these?:

    http://englishrussia.com/2008/03/10/abandoned-wooden-miracles/

    Reply
    • I agree with you about The World Without Us. I think the reviewer must have missed the message. Thanks for the link. Some of those houses are just amazing! It’s a shame to see them crumbling.

      Reply
  9. I, too, am fascinated by abandoned and decaying buildings, so I LOVE these photos. I look forward to checking out the blog you mention. Thanks for sharing it, Tori!
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    Reply
  10. Loving your photos – thanks for sharing! Happy Thursday!

    Reply
  11. Hey Tori, you live in such a photogenic area! I love the photos. I’m also fascinated with the I Am Legend scenes. I often fantasize about living somewhere all by myself, and hiding from the world. (A leftover from my unhappy youth, I suppose, when I was always dreaming of running away and living off the land.) When I see those houses, I want to go inside and imagine how I could live in them, maybe fixing up one room in a way that’s invisible from the outside so no one would know I lived there… Crazy, I know. I actually do really love my husband and kids. 🙂

    Reply
    • That sound like the plot of a good story! I understand the urge to live in isolation. My partner and I always talk about finding a place way out in the country with enough acreage to give us a big buffer between us and our closest neighbor. (Sorry to hear about your unhappy childhood.)

      Reply
  12. There are plenty of abandoned buildings and ruins here in France which facinate me too. From a fellow sci-fi freak 🙂

    Reply
    • I bet there are! There aren’t many surviving native American structures (and the ones I know of are mostly out west), so even here in North Carolina where the earliest English colony was, you won’t find anything older than 300 years old.

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  13. Pretty cool. The tree in the last photo is a monster; any idea what it is? (We don’t have trees like that in Tucson).

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    • I took that photo a year ago and I don’t remember. I’m thinking it’s an oak but not sure. It is a beauty though, isn’t it? I was standing at the bottom of a small hill so the height is exagerrated a bit but just a bit.

      Reply
  14. hi, i blogged one of your photos.
    the more i look at it, the more i think it would make a really intriguing christmas card.
    thanks for the photo (it’s beautiful), mary

    Reply
  15. I hope this isn’t a re-post; I hit send and it disappeared. I love your abandoned building shots. I’ve also always been drawn to those rural views. In the last couple years, there’ve been more urban views too, like in Detroit( http://www.marchandmeffre.com/detroit/ ). Great post,worth bookmarking to come back to.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the link! I’d seen some images from Detroit but not all of these. Some of these places are so grand, it seems like such a shame to see them falling into ruin.

      Reply
  16. Fantastic Photos! I am just learning a little about photography and have a simple, inexpensive digital camera, but I am having so much fun with it! Creativity and imagination are key, but so is location and timing. You did a fabulous job here! 🙂
    -Cindy

    Reply
    • Thanks, Cindy! I think you’re right on all counts about photography. I’ve had a lot of fun with it and I hope you continue to.

      Reply
  17. wow – amazing photos.

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  18. Brilliant photos – there is something appealing about the absence of presence. Maybe it is like really being able to see ghosts 🙂

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  19. When I ride the train (light rail or Amtrak) we often pass abandoned buildings with overgrown areas around them, right in the middle of the city. I imagine that people who live near them have no idea what is in the midst of the overgrowth.
    I really like the photos. I hope you will post more.

    Reply
  20. mthew

     /  May 22, 2012

    These are wonderful. What’s the full name of the “Catsbu…” something store with the great black cat painting? You ought to try to rescue that cat, too, since it looks like it’s on a board.

    Reply
  21. Your pictures are amazing! The sixth one dow, the white or grayish looking home is so beautiful even in its state of decay.

    Reply
  22. I have nominated you for the Creative Chaos Award. I just wanted you to know I think your blog is awesome! You do not have to accept it but if you want to to see what you have to do to keep it click here (http://wp.me/p2dVLB-9Z ). It was kind of fun!

    Reply
  23. Beautiful photos of the ruins…and I enjoyed the narrative, too. “The World Without Us” is a great book…incredible info. Have you seen the movie or read the book “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy? Very compelling post-apocalyptic story of a man and his little boy…very moving…heart-breaking, actually.

    Reply
    • Thanks again, Scott! It’s nice to come across someone else who enjoyed The World Without Us. I think he must have done an amazing amount of research. Very impressive. I haven’t read (or seen) The Road but I’m familiar with it. I read a few reviews and it sounded so heart-wrenching, I couldn’t bring myself to try it. Yet. The last few years, I tend to be drawn more to the funny or fantastic in terms of fiction – more entertaining than disturbing.

      Reply
      • You’re welcome, again, Tori…and yes, that book was incredible…I had it on my shelf for a couple of years and then my son borrowed it to read on a trip…came back raving about it…so interesting. The Road is definitely heart-wrenching, but also inspiring in regard to the love between the dad and his little one…very moving story.

  24. I’ve just started up a blog about abandoned places as well, catch it here http://placesabandoned.wordpress.com/
    I love your photos they have captured the eeiryness of the buildings and the surrounds, they are provoking and I want to know more!!!

    Reply
  25. wow! what a wonderful series. you photograph well. thanks for sharing, Tori. hope things are well… 🙂

    Reply

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