As writer and photographer, Matthew Christopher has embarked on a project that has taken him to empty and decrepit buildings.
The project started when Christopher explored the Philadelphia State Hospital, also known as Byberry. At the time, he worked in the mental health system and became fascinated with the building's history.
“I wound up going to it and at that point it had been abandoned for about 10 years and it was just a life changing experience,” he told KNPR's State of Nevada, "I went back there a few times more and became aware that there were other hospitals and then it was schools, factories, power plants and whatever else I could find. Soon enough it became an obsession”
Christopher said he is interested in what the buildings look like, the experience of being in a building that is no longer in use and the people who feel connected to the building.
This interest and passion has resulted in two books. The most recent is: “Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream.” It’s an ongoing project, which has started to include visits to the West.
Christopher explained that he has spent most of his time documenting the East Coast and America's abandoned Rust Belt, but he really wants to show all of America.
One of the places he explored is Bodie, California, which is just across the state line from Nevada.
“The idea of ghost towns that has been something I have been fascinated with for years and Bodie is kind of one of the most well-known and one of the best preserved,” he said.
He said ghost towns of the American West have a different feel and tell a different story than the industrial spaces of the East Coast.
“Each place has its own personality," he said, "You see that just in how they look.”
For instance, churches and theaters were built to be works of art, but old factories that are now superfund sites have their own beauty.
Christopher said as he has made his travels he has found people who have an affinity for abandoned spaces.
“I think one of the most rewarding things about this for me has been finding out just how many other people out there really appreciate these places and think they’re special,” he said.
He believes abandoned buildings have their own intrinsic value. And while the society might only value something because it is useful, he thinks we should appreciate abandoned places because of their history and unique beauty.
Matthew Christopher, author, "Abandoned America: Dismantling The Dream" and "Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences."
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