The Beauty of Decay: Abandoned America

Art — Produced by Michael O’Reilly

In this month’s ART segment, we go aboard the SS United States, still the record-holder for fastest ocean liner in the world, yet rusting in a river berth across from the Philadelphia IKEA. Our cameras roam Pittsburgh and what was once one of the largest blast furnaces in the United States or anywhere, now long since shuttered. And we make our way into a Philadelphia building, replete with scores of abandoned pianos, with vines covering the inside of some of the century-old windows.

We follow photographer Matthew Christopher as he documents the decline of abandoned places all over the Northeastern United States, and reveals the strange beauty to be found in the decay of places like this. The pictures Christopher takes ultimately get posted on the Abandoned America website. In addition, he shows these photos at galleries and museums throughout Pennsylvania and beyond, and holds workshops in some of the spaces he photographs. In these workshops, he shares with students what he has learned about the challenges of photographing in decaying structures with no electricity yet huge amounts of natural light. He also shares some of his strategies for finding these places and gaining access, which is sometimes harder than one thinks, despite the fact the decay he seeks is all around us.

See Matthew Christopher’s work on display at 3rd Ward

Matthew Christopher’s Abandoned America project was started to capture the mesmerizing beauty and lost history of the various derelict buildings dotting our country’s landscape. First and foremost, it is an effort to retain the history and essence of neglected sites before (and after) they are gone forever. In 2013 Matthew began hosting a series of photography workshops at selected locations that he has visited, allowing attendees to see firsthand otherwise inaccessible places and learn photographic techniques in the process. In doing so he has raised over $15,000 toward maintenance and preservation of these sites , such as the SS United States Conservancy, National Museum of Industrial History, and others. This exhibit at 3rd Ward features not only Matthew’s work but a curated selection of the many beautiful images created by those who have attended these events, each telling their own story about the individual’s experience witnessing a unique part of history. The exhibition will only be on display from October 4th through October 31st on the 2nd floor Gallery space. Please join us on October 24th from 6PM to 9PM for our free gallery reception and artist discussion. Details »

Web Extra: Two Men and a Ship

Edited by Lisa Levonian — Historian and Philadelphia resident Steven Ujifusa wrote A Man and His Ship, which documents the quest of William Francis Gibbs. Gibbs was a visionary in the golden age of industrial innovation; he designed and built the SS United States ocean liner. Ujifusa is on the council of the SS United States Conservancy, which aims to preserve the ocean liner as a stationary attraction.

Slideshow: Photographs by Laura Kicey

In the slideshow below, sample work from photographer Laura Kicey. Photos document the decaying Bronze Foundry and the SSUS.

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