Book Review: Gone: Photographs of Abandonment on the High Plains

High Plains litter

Steve Fitch has done the historians of the future a favor by photographing these abandoned homes that litter the Great Plains. Slowly they will crumble (or be vandalised) and eventually just be a pile of wood, plaster and rusty metal of the kitchen appliances. Oddly, the weather preserves and destroys these poignant remains, the scorching summer sun preserves but once the elements get inside, the wind, rain and heavy snowfalls gradually weaken the structure and the less well made will eventually collapse.

The seventy photos are all interiors, mostly homes but also schools and amazingly a bar in Gascoyne, North Dakota. The first was taken in 1991 and the latest 2001, one of these, a bedroom in Grassy Butte, North Dakota, only recently abandoned but looks like it could still be occupied because the elements and creatures haven't taken over yet. Many of these homes seem to have been vandalised, nature is clearly not so untidy as humans. Several reveal building techniques, with their floorboards and plasterwork ripped away. Strangely many of these left homes still contain the personal effects of the folks who lived in them.

Fitch wisely concentrates on the interesting interiors, making his photos a record as well as interesting compositions. Most other photographers tend to capture abandonment in relation to the wider landscape, capturing hard edge man-made decay resting in the natural softness of the outside. Another book I recently reviewed, the excellent Ghosts in the Wilderness: Abandoned America by Tony and Eva Worobiec, covers the same theme but their book had as many exterior landscape photos as interiors.

Both books are full of stunning photographs (the Worobiec's is definitely the coffee table one) that capture a part of America that deserves recording before it slowly vanishes.

Gone: Photographs of Abandonment on the High Plains is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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Typical spread.

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An abandoned bar in Gascoyne, North Dakota.

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Pages from the essay by Steve Fitch.

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