The Struggle to Process Abandonment in Photos — Part I

Like every life, every house has a story. No two are the same. And as every life must come to an end, so must every house.

Births, graduations, death, and dreams are the stuff in the life of a house. When a house becomes abandoned, and is it decays, there are no gravestones and no obituaries—no public eulogies. In many of America’s shrinking cites, where entire neighborhoods empty out, there are often no neighbors to tell the tale either.

This is often where I enter, camera in hand, walking into the past, through piles of clothes and the detritus of a sudden departure. Sometimes the only signs of passing are from the scrappers: blown open walls and traces of copper. However, there are many houses with almost everything left in them: family photo albums sit in piles of garbage; honor role notices still grace an old refrigerator; and magazines from decades earlier sit waiting to be opened.

I use the camera to try and process these seemingly unfathomable scenes. I wonder who these people were and what became of them.  What drove them to leave their home? What compelled them to leave behind their clothes, diaries, and photos of their children and loved ones? What would they think if they could return now and see what has become of the place they once lived and the neighborhood they once called home?

As I often pause from photographing to consider these questions, I realize there are no answers coming, only the silence of a once vibrant house, now a tomb of memory.

–Sean Posey

Note: this photo essay explores 631 Ridge, an abandoned house in Youngstown, Ohio that is a subject of a new documentary. Part II will run tomorrow.

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Filed under Art, Featured, Real Estate

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