Por­tals to the past

Pho­tog­ra­pher Tony Gallant takes read­ers back in time with a new book to be launched July 18 in O’Leary

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY SALLY COLE

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.

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