Growing up in war-torn Lebanon, I witnessed vibrant buildings turn to rubble and neglected structures fall into hopeless disrepair on a wide scale. When I first encountered dilapidated structures in the US, a sense of nostalgia and fascination with abandoned architecture ignited my desire to seek out and photograph such places. Like well-preserved monuments, deserted structures offer a lens to comprehend the profound stories embedded in our urban landscapes. Each abandoned place has its unique charm and narrative, pieced together from the remnants of everyday life left behind. Often, in abandonment, the outlines of once vivid dreams become more distinct than during their peak.

The images showcased here encompass various locations, including old houses, barns, ranches, derelict hotels, schools, factories, former prisons, mental hospitals, stadiums, zoos, empty villas, and ghost towns. These photographs were captured without altering the premises, though some required trespassing, such as my visit to the off-limits former mining town of Gilman in Colorado. Walking through Gilman was one of the loneliest experiences I’ve had while photographing an abandoned location. Except for the sound of light rain and the crunch of broken glass underfoot, there was only an oppressive silence.

Another vivid example of desolation and past human activity is the deteriorating Northern State Hospital near Sedro-Woolley in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. This hospital, which operated from 1911 to 1973, was Washington State’s largest mental health facility and housed thousands of patients, many of whom perished within its self-sustaining grounds. Today, its remnants stand as eerie reminders of the troubled lives once confined there.

The question of what turns a once lively place into a dark, vacant space lingers. The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia offers a glimpse into the past. I was moved by the cracks and rust in the prison cells, where walls transformed into abstract paintings as layers of peeling paint revealed a complex mosaic of color and texture. Beauty can emerge from any corner, not just the pristine. I invite the viewer to sense the presence within abandonment, contemplate the dreams that once filled these spaces, and appreciate the unique, doleful beauty that emerges amid the chaos of decay.