Random (but not really)

Thursday, June 15, 2017


I have long had a fascination with decay. If there is a decaying building, I want to go look at it.

20130406_Antietam _028

If there is a decaying machine, I want to examine all the parts.

Park of Decay

If there is a building being torn down, I want to examine the ruins and see the normally hidden bits exposed.

Sunnyside Deconstruction


In cemeteries I’m drawn to the oldest tombstones, the ones that are broken or can no longer be read.


When we hike, I am always delighted to come across some long abandoned sign of human habitation, lost in the forest.




I love taking pictures of these things so I can look at them later, and see bits that aren’t always visible at a quick glance.

This means that I find West Virginia an endlessly fascinating place. As we drive along two lane back roads, full of switch backs and steep grades, we continually pass houses and barns and buildings that are falling down.

However, I also find this terribly heart-breaking. Because, you see, some of those houses I see falling apart are still being lived in. Or they are next to an old trailer that is obviously inhabited.

These buildings are not just the past coming into the future, but are the past that still remains someone’s present.

So I almost never stop and take pictures of these buildings, because it feels terribly rude–because I am looking not at the interesting structures but at someone’s poverty. No matter how much I want to explore, I keep in mind that my fascination is of someone’s struggle.

I sometimes wish I weren’t so awkward and afraid of approaching strangers, because I would love to hear the stories some of these people might have, and to photograph them with the things they love and what they have and hold dear. But here in WV, we’re had too many people making fun of us, of our poverty, of accusing us of being backwards. I wouldn’t know how to convince a stranger that I photograph WV because I love it, and I love the character to be found in things that are struggling to stay upright.

So instead I’ll just stare as we go past, wondering about the stories, and wondering how long until these places are taken back by the woods.

4 Responses to “Decay”

  1. Eric Says:

    I love the pictures, Michelle.

  2. Michelle Says:

    Thank you Eric. :)

  3. mattw Says:

    Those are some great pictures and sentiment. I would love to explore abandoned structures, but don’t have the opportunity nor the bravery.

    On the flip side of your last couple statements, is it ever possible that people living adjacent to these structures do so to be close to a piece of something that they are trying to restore over time?

  4. Michelle Says:


    Possibly in some cases, but in many cases the entire area is obviously depressed and struggling, or there are new and rebuilt houses alongside houses that are falling apart. There are also a fair number of condemned buildings (which are particularly fascinating) that the area can’t afford to tear down.

    There are structures that are just old and worn but still cared for (barns and sheds in particular are like this), but there are a lot of places that just look like the families in them have given up. Dead cars and trucks litter the yards, there is often piled junk, because some of these areas don’t have garbage collection.

    Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of beautiful and well-tended old buildings. But there are also a lot of places that speak eloquently of the poverty of the inhabitants. Those are the places I would not want to photograph, and they are often alongside some of the abandoned structures.

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