As a boy, I spent my summers growing up next to Charleston Lake in the tiny hamlet of “The Outlet.”
The Canadian Shield was ever present and, to my cousins and I at least, begged to be explored at every available opportunity. We would investigate abandoned cabins on a forested ridge not far from the water, telling ghost stories and wondering about what happened that no one wanted these cabins anymore.
We’d talk for hours about enchantments, treasure, and bold explorers. The fascination never left me as I matured.
As a teenager, I’d steal my parent’s car while they slept and waste their gas driving county roads at night. Looking back on it, I had a pretty intense case of “wanderlust” as an adolescent.
A catharsis grew in me as I drove more and more, eventually becoming a therapy on my off days.
I began purposely taking roads I had never taken before, hoping to see something new and exciting, or something that would at least impress my passenger. My travels led me further and further from my home in Woodstock, sometimes going as far as Windsor.
I discovered photography in 2015, and immediately took to photographing Ontario’s natural environment and abandoned things.
The fascination and wanderlust of my youth culminated into a desire to capture something I felt everyone should see. Although broken or rusting, these abandonments are still so beautiful. They are a microcosm reminder of who we were and what we’ve done in our society.
While driving down the back roads between Kingston and Belleville I noticed an old coal truck in a farmer’s field. Something about it instantly captivated me and drove a strong impulse to pull an ill advised U-turn so I could get a better look.
I took some pictures and couldn’t help but stare at them when I got home. I wondered why this truck was left behind and was impressed by the survivability of a vehicle that was left to the elements for so many years. The overwhelming feeling was that these abandoned things were a reflection of humanity.
The picture of that truck is in my living room and I am still inspired by it.
It wasn’t long before I was making purposeful trips into the county roads of Middlesex seeking out abandoned buildings.
The catharsis that developed in my youth came full circle, driving an organic motivation to explore these abandoned places.
I find myself emotionally connected to the situations I come across.
There are feelings of anger when I see a home destroyed and pillaged, stripped of its copper and its family’s knick-knacks; sadness when I see children’s toys still lying about the over grown sandbox and a nearby dog house that has no resident; reverence when I see a doctor’s bag from the 1920s – still full of bandages and medicine… A broken pair of spectacles that were mended by careful hands.
I started going out to shoot every opportunity I had, much to the lament of my gas budget and celebration of my mechanic.
I’ve encountered some amazing things while exploring these abandoned places and have come to realize that what I’ve been doing with all the rural exploration (or “Rurex”) is photo-documenting Canadian ruins.
The society preceding us has passed from agricultural, while service, tech, and industry have taken the reins. Like so many other countries around the world, the ruins of these structures are all that remains of the society of old. As the light-speed urbanization of London continues, the rural communities find their populations dwindling.
I have found this to be true all across Ontario.
It might be surprising how much of our community has been abandoned and then violently targeted by modern society. I’ve seen 100-year old houses stand empty with their windows broken while vandals document their ignorance with spray paint. Some have had bricks taken and others with crude drawings on an unknown family’s once cherished pictures.
It reminds me of stories my Mother would tell me about grave robbers and vandals in ancient Egypt. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I suppose.
As I immersed myself in rurex culture, I began sharing my photos with people around the world doing the same.
There is a mutual understanding in the community that these places are to be preserved and made beautiful again through photography and efforts to restore salvageable abandonments. We are historians and documentarians, attempting to protect the homes and belongings of people who built our communities.
There is an unspoken agreement that we don’t reveal the particular locations. It’s part of an effort to make sure people don’t use our work to destroy these places. This is why I use the handle @anonymouslyabandoned. I never make note of the exact locations of these places, or research where these places may be.
I travel highways, side, back, and dirt roads searching for what’s left, hoping that these abandoned places will tell me their stories so I can share them in the interest of preservation and inspiration.