- Bryan Sansivero has spent the last decade photographing America’s abandoned homes.
- He describes each home as a time capsule, often brimming with dusty antiques and faded artwork.
- A collection of his haunting photos were published in his book, “American Decay: Inside America’s Forgotten Homes.”
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“I was so intrigued,” he told Insider.
He said he pulled over in an apple orchard and made the trek up to the stone home, which he estimates was built in the 1700s.
Sansivero, 36, recalls peering through the only open window of the house. Amongst the crumbling and decaying walls, he spotted an elegant piano.
“This is so strange and it’s beautiful,” Sansivero remembers thinking.
So naturally, he stepped inside to snap a few photos.
In college, where he said he majored in filmmaking, he made a documentary about an abandoned hospital.
The house in Pennsylvania reignited his interest, he said.
“Naturally, I was just drawn to wanting to photograph and explore things off-the-beaten path or the not-typically-seen kind of things,” he said.
He said it’s often obvious that other photographers have visited the homes as well, and that they might have staged objects or moved furniture around.
If that’s the case, Sansivero said he might do a bit of his own staging before shooting — propping up a photograph or moving a lamp into the shot — but he says he keeps staging to a minimum.
“There’s plenty of photos in my book where I literally walked in and that’s what it looked like,” he said.
Sansivero said he loves color, noting that he was wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and rainbow, striped shorts while speaking with Insider.
But even with bright colors, his images are unsettling.
The home was filled with white-and-red carnival stripes, a canopy circus ceiling, and harlequin patterns covering the walls.
According to Sansivero, the home previously belonged to a circus family, but it’s since been updated and renovated.
The photographer said the room was pitch black when they got there, but that as the sun rose and the light came in they started to see the details inside, including a tiger rug, old rifles, and an animal head mounted to the wall.
Often, Sansivero said he’ll find a letter or old piece of mail with a name of a former resident and use that information to track down the owner’s family to learn more about the house’s history.
The abandoned buildings usually have a sad backstory, according to Sansivero. One home he photographed was deserted after the owners were convicted of animal abuse, he said in an Instagram caption, while others remain brimming with antiques but no heirs.
Ultimately, Sansivero said he doesn’t have all the answers to questions that his audience has about each home. But he said their questions leave them with a lasting impression of his work.
He added that he wants “American Decay” to be a book that people revisit.
“Not a book that just sits there,” he said. “But a book that you can go through and see something new each time.”
Many of them have been destroyed by fires or vandalized with spray paint, he said. But that doesn’t take away from his experience of photographing these homes.
“Just to know that I was there and lucky enough to photograph it is really cool,” he said.