Still Standing: Photographing the Abandoned Structures of Nova Scotia
Amateur photographer Wayne Simon of Weymouth, N.S., captures images—and memories—of abandoned structures across the province that retain a beauty all their own.
The Art of Abandoned Photography
Nova Scotia is a province of youthful migration. The younger generation tends to move to large cities such as Montreal and Toronto, or they head out west to the oil fields of Alberta in search of work and employment diversity. In the wake of that exodus, many old buildings are deserted.
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To me, abandoned structures seem to cry out for attention, to be recognized for their thankless contribution to the protection and nurturing of the individuals who constructed and used them over many lifetimes. When I look at an old abandoned structure, I wonder about the lives of the people who passed through the doorways and occupied the rooms. I wonder about the conversations absorbed by the walls and hallways. How many evenings were spent gathered around the radio in the now-vacant rooms and the multitude of meals prepared on the wood stoves left to rust in the backyard?
People sometimes say, “If these walls could talk,” but if you listen, the walls do speak. After years of habitation, the structures take on an animated presence. They lean too far to the right or wave loose shingles in the wind. Outer wall sections swing on rusted nails, defying the pull of gravity. Left abandoned and to decay, they still cling to the forgotten charm and dignity their former owners endowed them with. Window decorations, peeling shutters, symmetry of form and simple decorative additions show they were once the pride of previous owners.
I realize for many who are in a constant rush to make ends meet, an old building is regarded merely as a landmark, used to know which corner to turn at, or to gauge a projected time to the office as we drive by. There is also wonderment, however, that many of us feel when we come across a Victorian home with its many ornate gables and turrets, or the symmetry and proportion of Georgian structures. The same holds true for me when I come across smaller abandoned places with stories of their own. But why bother taking photos of old derelict places? What’s the point? I like to think a photograph captures an emotional connection related to structures.
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An old structure is like a fashion model. Without the makeup, clothing and lighting, they are generally quite average looking. But captured in the right light with a bit of creativity and makeup, quite stunning. Old neglected structures have appeal in the right light, at the correct angle.
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The Maritime Province of Nova Scotia is filled with abandoned structures. Passersby call them derelict, but every one, from the smallest log structure to the largest Victorian home, has a story to tell. If you’re lucky, someone is still around who remembers the people who lived there, and, when asked, can give some insight as to the personality of an individual or family. Sometimes strange, often funny, but always interesting, there is a history lesson in every empty dwelling, standing or leaning.
These are our time travellers. Shelters of hope and dreams long past, still struggling to remain upright as they age. Once the welcome refuge at the end of the snow-covered path, they stand forgotten. Abandoned walls no longer echo with soft whispers in the night and resound with laughter and tears. They will soon return to the earth, preserved only in our images and recollections.