Abandoned sites around Alberta highlighted in new photography book

An old, abandoned home with a noticeable lean can be seen on the front cover of Joe Chowaniec’s newest book.

To some, it’s just a house that’s soon to collapse. But in this picture, Chowaniec sees a beautiful home that was somebody’s dream.

Chowaniec’s new book, Abandoned Alberta, captures areas and buildings like this in 140 photos from around the province. The book stems from a Facebook page called Abandoned Alberta that Chowaniec has run since 2016 showing similar photos of abandoned buildings from across the province.

“About four or five years ago, I picked up my camera again and I was taking photos of abandoned buildings that had caught my eye, mostly houses and barns,” said Chowaniec, who was interviewed on Edmonton AM on Friday.

This home, featured on the cover of Joe Chowaniec’s new book, was built in the early 1920s by a settler from Nova Scotia. (Supplied by Joe Chowaniec)

The Facebook page now has more than 32,000 followers. Its popularity prompted a publishing company to contact Chowaniec and ask if he was interested in a book.

“I don’t believe it’s happening,” Chowaniec said.

“The day the boxes arrived and I finally got to see two years of work and opened the boxes was a goosebumps moment.”

The project started with around 2,000 photos, that Chowaniec and his wife narrowed down to around 200. From there, Chowaniec and his publisher worked to narrow down these photos to 140 selections.

To compile these photos, Chowaniec said he drove roughly 10,000 km around Alberta, often receiving tips from people about sites he can photograph for his Facebook page.

One of the abandoned sites photographed in Chowaniec’s house is a place he calls ‘Grandma’s House’, west of Edmonton. The house has remained unchanged since it was abandoned in the 1960s. You can still find dried flowers on a desk, a calendar and a hanging iron board in the roughly 100-year-old home.

This roughly 100-year-old house has remained unchanged since 1968. (Supplied by Joe Chowaniec)

Another similar site that Chowaniec highlights is an international harvester dealership west of Edmonton that’s also been untouched for decades. When Chowaniec walked inside, he found drawers part open and all kinds of equipment still on site.

The parts room at an abandoned International Harvester dealership, which has sat untouched since it closed in 1968. (Supplied by Joe Chowaniec)

“It’s like you just literally stepped back in time,” Chowaniec said.

Chowaniec said he’s fascinated with the history of the settings he captures on the prairies, and how they’re slowly disappearing.

“People drive by and take our roots for granted. There’s lots to be learned from the people who settled here,” Chowaniec said.

Some see long-forgotten decay but photographer Joe Chowaniec sees something beautiful. We’ll hear how he’s capturing abandoned areas and structures throughout the province in his new book. 7:30

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