Once a strategically important city at the juncture of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, Cairo, Illinois is in terminal decline after decades of racial turbulence.
The industrial heart of the Rust Belt is western Pennsylvania as once-mighty steel mills, coke plans, and machine shops, scattered alongside railroads, rivers, and highways, have downsized and closed. A globalized economy and increased automation led many jobs overseas; what remained was a shell, unable to be self-sustaining without government intervention.
Ghost towns along the New River in West Virginia are aplenty but what makes these three unique is that they lay within the New River Gorge National River. Prior to the creation of the national park in the late 1970s, much of the land was used for the production of coal and coke. Small, company-owned towns were developed for the miners and their families, and when those mines closed out—so did the communities.
Several years ago, I made my way into the heart of West Virginia to photograph several waterfalls along the Holly River and its tributaries. But as I made my way further and deeper into the recesses of the valleys and higher atop the mountains, I came across lands that were forgotten and fallow. Residences that once tended to untold acres of crops and pastures now lay abandoned and in waste.
Deerton, Michigan is an unincorporated community in Alger County that was founded in 1882 when the Detroit, Mackinac & Marquette Railroad constructed a station for a lumbering camp. A post office opened in 1922, and in 1926, a small school was constructed at the junction of Deerton-Onota Road. Today, not much is left in the community – most of the residences are abandoned, although the school still operates.