Photographing Abandoned Houses
Photographing abandoned houses is something I have been doing for almost four years now, a drop in the bucket compared to many of my peers. Some call it Urban Exploring, some call it Urbex, others simply call it a hobby, a few even use the fun term “Urban Spelunking”, or my least favourite: “Place Hacking”. Canadian Photo Journalist, Spencer Wynn referred to this breed of photographer as “Modern Day Explorers” who “uncover and reveal the secret lives of rural and urban abandoned homes, factories, hospitals and other institutions.” The reach and interests of this breed stretch far and wide, from the highest rooftops in China to the deepest tunnels beneath London or behind Niagara Falls. But for this photo essay, I’m keeping it simple and I want to take you into some abandoned houses from Ontario, Canada and the secrets they hold.
To me, Photographing Abandoned Houses is a passion, it’s uncovering and capturing history and it’s very interesting…I like to consider it “capturing the present state of the past”, the present state in that these places stopped living long ago, in most cases – however the rooms remain today (for the most part) as they were in the past, the day the last person walked out the door.
In some abandoned houses, the urban explorer (or hobbyist, or photographer/spelunker/hacker of places) will come across nothing but empty rooms with peeling paint and sagging wall paper, soft floors and maybe a lonely chair. This is actually the case in most houses that you will drive by on your way to the cottage or family camping trip. But there are many exceptions if you look in the right places and be sure explore every room and every closet when Photographing Abandoned Houses.
We’ll start with the “things”, the bits and pieces of life that, for whatever reason, get left behind when someone abandons their house.
Items left Behind:
Behind closet doors, inside dresser drawers, on top of dressers and especially in attics or basement, you can really find some odd and freaky things in an abandoned house. Porcelain dolls, dentures, trinkets and knick knacks, old forgotten toys from generations ago – who knew that there was a “Welcome Back Kotter” board game?. I once found a stash of money stuffed into a mattress in one abandoned house, you can read about that here in a story called “The House of Treasures”
Below you can see a variety of the odd and unusual items that I have found in some of the abandoned houses I have photographed and explored.
Of the many things that get left behind in an abandoned house, I think the family photographs I find tell the saddest story. I have found photos from (what looks like) a concentration camp, I have found photos from generations ago of someones ancestors , baby photos, wedding photos, full photo albums of black and white photos of an entire families life. I’ve even found photos of an old woman laying in her coffin. Here is a sample of the many photos I have found buried in boxes, or hung on a wall or still sitting on a night stand – all left behind in abandoned houses.
I love finding bits of Pop Culture that has been left behind throughout the various generations of people and families who once lived in these homes. I once visited a house that had every single issue ever printed of Time Magazine, perfectly stacked and organized by issue date in the basement of the house. Magazine covers and articles (as you will see below) that you could never imagine seeing in print today. The death of JFK and Elvis Presley, photo books of the Royal Family, records, tapes and 8 Tracks – all pieces of history that so many would love to have in their personal collections – all things I have found and photographed and left where I found them, in hopes that the next photographer shares the same philosophy as I do.
It may sound odd to a person who either has never heard of photographing abandoned houses, or to someone who has never actually been inside one – but there is most definitely beauty in decay. To see a room, still in tact and put together the way it would have been, surrounded by peeling paint and wallpaper, cob webs and a crumbling ceiling, picture frames barely hanging onto the wall. It is tragic, it is certainly sad, but it is an amazing sight to see, to see what time does to a room.
I will end this photo essay with a collection of some of my personal favourite rooms in abandoned houses, still in tact and surrounded by years and years of decay – the present state, of the past.
Freaktography – Captures the present state of the past through creative photography and urban exploration. The photographer behind Freaktography explores and photographs the normally unseen or off-limits parts of urban areas or industrial facilities. With an interest in abandoned houses, forgotten industrial facilities, derelict medical institutions, rooftopping and storm drains, Freaktography brings his viewers a glimpse into areas that many wouldn’t normally observe.
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Web – www.Freaktography.ca