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Photographer finds beauty in ruins of abandoned N.L. homes


Published on April 19, 2017

This variety store in Musgrave Harbour has since been torn down.

©Steve Campbell photo

For Steve Campbell, the term 'house-hunting' takes on a whole new meaning. 

Campbell takes 'house hunting' to a whole new level.
Steve Campbell photo

That’s because Campbell has made it his hobby to photograph, what he calls, "traditional, abandoned, or interesting homes and buildings."

"Primarily it's been residential homes that have been very original to their forms … old clapboard, wooden windows," Campbell explained to The Packet.

Campbell says he has been photographing abandoned buildings for about six or seven years now, and has been uploading them to his Facebook group Lost Newfoundland since 2013.

Reaction to the photographs has been generally positive, and although some users have requested that Campbell remove a photo of a relatives or family members old home or store, many users enjoy seeing the photographs.

"People have really taken to the photos. Some of these old houses are great photographic subjects in themselves … I put them on Facebook on this page, and almost every time I've gotten a family member who would say, 'oh this is Aunt Gert's house, and this is the history of it'.

"People say 'oh, I love these old houses' or 'it's sad that a house like this that was somebody's home once and provided comfort and shelter is now left on its own'.  People find it sad … some of the people seeing these houses haven’t seen them in years, or are living on the main land, and say 'oh, I remember visiting grandma there, what great times we had there'.  You're going back 30 or 40 years.  People see it as a simpler time."

And for Campbell, capturing some of the mystery and intrigue and history surrounding these old buildings is much of the joy and wonder in photographing them.

Abandoned property on Fogo Island.
Steve Campbell photo

"What is the story of these houses, what happen to them, and who lived there -- that’s always what intrigued me," explained Campbell.

"I'm into Newfoundland history, and when you come across one of these old places, they're beautiful in their own right a lot of times."

And how does Campbell find the perfect abandoned old building?

Well, he goes out and hunts for them.

" I love the hunt of finding one of these old houses.

"We would just go around, just go out and do photo shoots.  Drive around, and pick an area, go down side roads … just get out and explore. There's so many little side roads, that unless you go down everyone of them, your probably gonna miss some things."

Sometimes, finding a subject can prove quite difficult.

"Some of these houses are hard to find too.  You drive around and spot one through the woods and you clamber down over the bank, and you say 'how did people even get to this place?' but you've got to be ready, you’ve got to have your sturdy boots on and be ready to do a bit of searching.

A lone house in Loon Bay.
Steve Campbell photo

"I've found houses tucked away that you had to walk to, you couldn’t even drive your car there."

It's also not just a matter of finding a perfect subject – it's finding the perfect subject at the perfect time.

"Early morning is when you're going to get your best picture.  Once the day starts – 12 o'clock, one or two o'clock – then a lot of the times the light is too harsh and shines right down on the houses.

"If you're not there at the right time, you really kill a shot."

And although old homes form the core of Campbell's work, some of his most well received and popular posts have not been homes at all.

"Convenience stores and general stores get a lot of positive responses … people seem to have fond memories of going there, and going in the store.  The owners were always in the store, sort of a mom-and-pop operation.  I get a lot of responses on photos like that."

Campbell says that his most popular posts have been a series of photographs showing the dilapidated and abandoned Trinity Loop amusement park in Trinity.

This home in Upper Island Cove has since been torn down.
Steve Campbell photo

And the weapon of choice when hunting for the perfect old house, convenient store, or abandoned amusement park?

Campbell uses a Canon 5D Mark III, but explained to The Packet  that your choice of lens and glass are just as important as your camera choice, and maybe even more so.

"The camera is a good part of it, but the lens and the glass you're using has a bit more influence on your photos.  I've been fortunate enough to be able to acquire a couple of decent pieces of glass.  So I'm using, almost exclusively for these shots, tilt shift lens …they're great for architecture and buildings and even landscapes … the tilt shift really allows you to get the whole house right into the perfect plane of focus."

Campbell says that he enjoys the hobby, and despite the time and money required, will continue shooting while there are subjects left to shoot  … which, may not be forever.

"Since beginning, a lot of the houses I've photographed have actually been torn down … so I can only imagined what existed prior to starting."

Campbell says his photo series on the abandoned Trinity Loop amusement park contain some of his most popular photos.

©Steve Campbell photo