Matthew Christopher: Abandoned America

By Andrew Andrews

Matthew Christopher describes the ruins of a tableware factory at NYPL’s Mid-Manhattan Library.

Normally we don’t like to visit the same venue for the same type of show twice in one week, especially when the topics seem somewhat related. But when we saw who was presenting at the Mid-Manhattan Library we just couldn’t pass on attending, despite just catching Atlas Obscura there a few days earlier.

That “someone” is Matthew Christopher, an urban explorer who visits and photographs abandoned places across America—and not always with official authorization. But Christopher is as much an architectural historian as he is a photographer, learning as much as he can about a property and its relationship to the community before exploring it in person and documenting its demise. His latest book, Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream takes us to factories, churches, houses and hotels that in most cases outlive their former inhabitants, but sometimes survive as memories long after the structures themselves have been demolished and even replaced.

Christopher’s presentation was everything a great author talk should be: passionate, engaging and with just the right amount of personal opinion to convey the author’s motivation without sounding like a sermon. And although his work might inspire others to follow in his footsteps and explore these decaying sites on their own, his desire to protect these monuments of the past from vandals and arsonists should encourage you to take the easy route and visit them virtually through his books and website instead. Not only is it a lot safer than trespassing at the risk of injury or prosecution, but Christopher has a knack for capturing the soul of a scene in his photographs that the average eye would most likely miss—especially when you’re trying not to fall through the floor or be confronted by squatters. So check out Abandoned America to experience this country’s forgotten places from the safety and comfort of home!


Andrew Andrews attended Matthew Christopher: Abandoned America at Mid-Manhattan Library in Manhattan on Thursday, April 20, 2017 @ 6:30pm to write this review.