While photographing this old house I wondered about its backstory. Was it intended as a family home in the country or perhaps just a small country cottage/bungalow? After doing a little research online, the size of this home, approximately 500 square feet, could have been influenced by several trends.
Decline in average size of family. According to the US census bureau, there has been an average loss of one person per family during the first 100 years of our country (5.7 in 1790), followed by an additional person in the next 50 years (3.8 in 1949).
Decrease in domestic production. With the rise of the industrial revolution, the space required to facilitate domestic goods production & services such as clothing & linens, food production and food storage (e.g. canning) became unnecessary as families became “consumers”.
Cost of modern amenities. Homes in the early twentieth century usually had reduced space to compensate for the increased expense of plumbing, heating and other technological improvements.
Since the mid twentieth century however, average home sizes in the US have increased between 400 & 500 square feet every 20 years.
The color image above is a composite of a several versions of the color original. The first layer is a emulation of a vintage Kodak Kodachrome 25 film stock. The second layer is a oil painterly effect applied to a copy of the first, and the final layer is a high contrast black & white with some additional processing. You can click on each image to see a higher resolution image from my portfolio site.
A few weeks ago, I ventured out into Davidson County to locate an old house seen months earlier on Old Greensboro Rd. Though rain was in the forecast that day, it had only appeared briefly as a light shower. The sky was thick with gray billowing rain clouds, I knew the clouds would complement any exterior shots of the house, and also knew more contrast in the clouds could be extracted with a little post processing. When I found the house, it appeared I would have time to shot a series of this house before it rained again.
Interestingly, there were a few signs the previous inhabitants had started refurbishing the front of the house, but apparently had given up . Perhaps they felt the house was too far gone to continue with restorations. This seems to be a common decision that leads to abandonment. If only the house had been incrementally cared for in past.
The best compositions turned out to be the left side and rear of the house. Here I found little sign of restoration, decay had firmly set in. As expected, the rain clouds added to the mood of the composition while also providing textural and soft shape contrast with the house. I felt the interior image turned out quite nicely. To me, the light itself is the subject here. It softly spills through the decrepit window onto the aged wooden floor, ceiling and barely the wall. The room lies empty except for a few objects, which add visual interest and clues about the former inhabitants.
For the past few months I’ve been stalking out an old abandoned brick house on Union Cross Rd in Walburg, NC. Most of my old house subjects have been wooden structures. The weathered brick and encroaching vines in this home made things visually a bit more interesting. In my first few visits, I was hoping for more dramatic lighting to capture the east side of the house. Eventually, I captured the Scary House image on a cloudy late afternoon in early March. After working with this image in Lightroom, I went to Alien Skin’s Exposure 7 to find color film filter to add a touch more drama. I ended up with the Fuji Pro 160C film emulation filter with a slight bump in exposure to compensate for the crunched contrast effect. Pretty scary, eh?
Around to the front of the house, at the front door, I found this cool door knob composition — Rustic Entrance. The brass door knob and metal plate behind it offer an interesting example of contrasting textures and shapes. Click on the image title or image itself to see a more detailed image from my portfolio site; notice the detail in the door knob and metal plate. The Clarity feature in Lightroom was helpful in optimizing this effect.
The weathered wood and peeling teal paint also add visual interest to the image. Another encroaching vine appears as another reference to Mother Nature’s claim on this old house. Here, I used a modern Kodak Kodachrome 25 emulation filter in Exposure 7 to make the textures pop a bit more.
Back on the east side of the house, one of the first floor windows was almost completely hidden behind dense shrub overgrowth and a fallen tree limb. Pushing through the shrubs, I found the composition shown in the Forgotten Window image. Here the broken window glass, electrical wire and wooden board provide visual counterpoint to the strong rectangular shapes and patterns in the front plane of the composition. Through the window, into the room lies a metal mattress frame and open door on the back wall leads back outside.
Since I was a kid, old abandoned houses have always caught my eye. I’m driven to stop and take a closer look, now a days with my camera. While visiting these properties, I keep an eye out for exposed rusty nails & snakes, both potentially hiding in the tall weeds and grass. Depending on the condition of the structure, it sometimes seems unsafe to go inside. Cautiously exploring each room, I try to imagine what it was like when someone actually lived in the house.
I suspect a lot of folks think of old house images as another photography cliche. Perhaps they are, but when I fine an interesting abandoned house, I’ll usually stop to assess its visual potential. Often, I’m not disappointed. Weathered surface textures and interesting shapes, lines and pattern combine with the juxtaposition of man’s attempt to bring symmetry and order to the world with nature’s slow and steady reclamation over our futile attempts at permanency.
The images in this post are from my This Ole House Gallery and also part of the Beauty of Decay Collection. 1st Floor, Left Entrance was taken at an abandoned house just of Hwy 421 north of Sanford, NC. The two doors, missing porch, crumbling deck above, and rear window all make for an interesting composition.
Decrepit Front Porch was taken at a decaying old house off of Sandy Ridge Rd. in High Point, NC. Here the house is closer to crumbling, the decay much more intense. The severely weathered wood is bowing, splintering or broken. You get the sense this house could come crashing down at any moment. In addition to the complex shapes, patterns and depth, I like contrasting vines in the foreground.
Both these images were processed to emulate Kodak Panatomic-X black & white negative film. I have more pictures from this gallery to share in the coming weeks. I would love to hear your comments about what you like and don’t like about these images. From the main blog page, click on the blog post date to link to the blog’s commenting feature found at the bottom of the page.