Ruin porn, decay tourism, urban exploration — they're all buzz phrases describing abandonography, the photography of abandoned buildings. The economic crises that have left malls, offices and once-great landmarks neglected and forlorn may have fueled the popularity of the genre, but for photographer Matthew Christopher, it's not just a passing fancy.
The Pennsylvania native began documenting abandoned structures 10 years ago while researching the decline of the 168-acre Byberry state psychiatric hospital in Philadelphia.
"It was a life-changing experience and spiraled into an obsession exploring any place I could find," said Christopher, who went on to visit hundreds of abandoned sites across the county.
His new photo book, "Abandoned America: The Age of Consequence," is a collection of images of forsaken factories, theaters, churches and prisons left to the elements and vandals. His evocative commentary provides in-depth context on the demise of places that once helped to define a community's identity.
Many of the structures he photographed no longer exist, such as the gothic St. Bonaventure Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia and the hulking, 11-story Frank R. Phillips Power Station, which generated electricity for the Pittsburgh area until the 1990s.
Deserted properties such as the haunting, rusted-out Holmesburg Prison, built in 1896 and nicknamed "The Terrordome," evoke a creepy, horror-movie vibe. Other sites held noted architecture, including Eero Saarinen's modernist Bell Labs Holmdel Complex and Neo-Classicist John Haviland's Old Essex county jail, both in New Jersey .
Preservationists have stepped in and salvaged several sites such as Philadelphia's Lansdowne Theater, which made a cameo appearance in the film "Silver Linings Playbook," and the Carrie blast furnaces, once part of the Homestead Steel Works complex built by Andrew Carnegie in 1884.