Portals to the past
Photographer Tony Gallant takes readers back in time with a new book to be launched July 18 in O’Leary
Photographer Tony Gallant takes readers back in time with a new book to be launched on July 18 in O’Leary.
Every picture pleads to tell a story.
In one, a faded orange curtain blows in through the broken window.
In another, a smiling figurine rests on the window ledge of an abandoned house in western Prince Edward Island.
In still another, a farmhouse with a crumbling foundation sits on top of a hill, surrounded by apple trees and fields with hip-high thistles.
These are just a few of the dozens of images in “Door to the Past: Abandoned Properties of Prince Edward Island” (Acorn Press), by Tony Gallant. In addition to their detail and sometimes stark beauty, the pictures in the book leave the reader with a flood of questions about the people who lived there, who they were, why they left and how their houses got into such disrepair.
These questions were also on Gallant’s mind when he began exploring abandoned houses and outbuildings, looking for portals to the past.
“I call them time capsules. And there are so many of them dotting the Island,” says the freelance photographer who will launch his new book on July 18 at the West Prince Arts Council at the O’Leary Community Complex at 2 p.m.
After shooting the old buildings and their contents, Gallant started posting his pictures on his Abandoned Properties of P.E.I. Facebook page three years ago. Before long, he had more than 100,000 hits. It seemed clear that many other people shared his passion for abandoned buildings on P.E.I.
Gallant was also intrigued by the role that nature can play in a building’s demise.
“What fascinated me most was the condition of each house when it was empty. I would see how the paint would fall off the ceiling or how the old wall panelling would start peeling away and buckling. I’d also notice stones missing from chimneys.”
Then something happened that Gallant didn’t expect. He became nostalgic.
Standing in one of the places, he started to imagine the lives of the people who lived there when the house was in good condition, with the old television sitting in the corner and the family watching a local program. “It took me right back.” And, as he talked to others about it, he realized he wasn’t alone.
“Many people don’t live in the houses that they grew up in. Everybody has a memory about where they come from. And so when they see these places that were left, it brings them back to that time.”
Gallant is hoping to make a trip back to “that time” in the next few years. With the book finished, he wants to begin work at his family’s homestead
in Howland that has been abandoned since his father’s death approximately 15 years ago and the decision of his caretaker brother to move away to find work.
Gallant purchased the property three years ago.
“My old house can’t be salvaged. The cement foundation has crumbled but there’s still some good lumber in it. So I plan take off the shingles and strip it down to the boards.”
Then, using the lumber, he wants to build a shed on the property and use it as a place to dream.
“It’s my favourite place in the world. That’s because it sits on top of the hill and there’s a stream below where we, as kids, used to swim in the summer and skate in the winter.
“All my childhood memories live here. So, for me, it’s a way to hold onto the past.”
Tony Gallant of Brockton has focused his camera lens on his family’s homestead in Howland and many other abandoned properties on Prince Edward Island. His passion for documenting these houses has inspired a new book. “Door to the Past: Abandoned Properties of Prince Edward Island” will be launched in O’Leary on July 18.
In the midst of peeling paint, lace curtains grace a window at the Tony Gallant’s homestead in Howland. In his research, he is interested to see what people leave behind. He has seen everything from children’s toys to wooden chairs to an entire chrome set. “I always wondered why they didn’t take them.”
A faded figurine sits on the window ledge in the kitchen of an old abandoned house in Western Prince Edward Island. It’s one of the images in “Door to the Past: Abandoned Properties of Prince Edward Island” by Tony Gallant.
This is the cover of Tony Gallant’s new book, ”Door to the Past: Abandoned Properties of Prince Edward Island.
Timothy grass and daisies crowd an old house in western P.E.I. When greenery closes in on old buildings, the moisture stays and the house will decompose much faster than if it stood in the opening, says Tony Gallant.