Just ask Pablo Maurer, a photographer specializing in overgrown scenic destinations.
Maurer became famous after publishing his “Abandoned States” photography series on @DCist last year. In the series, Maurer collected old destination postcards, then photographed the sites in their current, abandoned state. The final gifs, which shift seamlessly from the idealized old images to the dilapidated state they’re currently in, are a fascinating study in decay.
Maurer has always been fascinated by abandoned sites, but the event that sparked the comparison series was the picture on a matchbox he found at the abandoned Penn Hills Resort in Pennsylvania. While exploring the rest of the resort, he was able to find the pool pictured on the matchbox and snap some comparison shots. He described the contrast as like “some sort of dystopian View-Master, each image on the wheel darker than the next.”
After finding a whole set of old holiday postcards on Ebay, Maurer slowly started visiting the places in the photos to see what they looked like today.
He’s become the unofficial photographer for a lost generation of resorts across the Poconos and the Catskills, vacation towns that flourished for a short time in the 50’s and 60’s before going bankrupt. Today, the formerly-bustling sites have been reclaimed by nature.
“The images inspire emotion that’s really difficult to put your finger on. It’s a little melancholy,” Maurer says.
Maurer says that he has a “connection” with all of his sites, but one of the most resonant for him was a bowling alley in the Catskills.
“I was there on Christmas day when my family was out of town, and I had nothing to do,” he told National Geographic. “I went up there and bowled. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life… It felt like it had been recently lived in.”
After his series became famous, Maurer has branched out, photographing sites like the old Wizard of Oz theme park in North Carolina. People have really connected to the photographs, and he has gotten messages from people who visited the places he photographed in the distant past.
When asked why he thinks his series has resonated with people, Maurer said, “People connect the decay in these photographs with general sort of decay. Something once grand was left to rot. I think to a lot of people, it’s to them a symbol of how wasteful we are.”