An Interview With The Authors of Antiquity Echoes

Exploring the Decaying Abandoned

Forest Estate where we had our first date. Photos by Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews.
Forest Estate where we had our first date. Photos by Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews.

51oGvQQqnCL. SY490 BO1204203200 By Andy Christian Castillo

Antiquity Echoes presents itself as A Photographed Tour of Abandoned America, but the book strikes an emotional chord far that's deeper than just a historical account.

Rusty Tagliareni (photographer) and Christina Mathews (videographer) document a fascination with abandoned places and present decay in a beautiful light. The book is a culmination of countless hours of work and passion.

There's something beautiful in overgrown tumbling stone, peeling wallpaper and rotting wood -- I found the book beautifully printed and the endeavor itself, inspiring.

Probably the most interesting aspect in the book are QR codes, which link to exclusive video content of each location. The videos are hauntingly beautiful -- with a unique backtrack by composer Worrytrain, the videos offer a unique perspective on the structures.

Staircase from Ghost Rails chapter
Staircase from Ghost Rails chapter

GoNOMAD interviewed the authors to get a personal perspective on the work.

How did you get into photographing old buildings?

Rusty Tagliareni: In high school and then in college I had done a lot of photography projects, abandoned buildings interesting light patterns and unique materials to shoot. On our first date we went to an abandoned mansion actually...

Christina Mathews: He took me to an abandoned building on our first date. That's what really got me interested in it. At that time I wasn’t filming.

Where is the most interesting place you’ve ever been?

RT: We speak a lot about the overlook asylum because it’s what got us going as a website. If I was gonna say my favorite, it’s kinda tough. Based on looks, probably the Bennett School. It was this beautiful Victorian building, but now it looks kinda like a stereotypical haunted house on a hill. The exterior shows ‘oh, there's more to this than wood.’ The most interesting place overall would be the Greystone Asylum. Unfortunately, they just tore it down.

CM: I really like the Overlook Asylum, because that’s what got me really into videography. And back then it was really patrolled. There were like no broken windows, everything was just left like they just left and never came back. It was really strange.

RT: We go to counsel meetings, and got really involved with preservation after documenting the Greystone Asylum.

Halcyon Hall from An Elegant Death chapter
Halcyon Hall from An Elegant Death chapter

You mentioned preservation, what do you mean by that?

RT: Currently were involved with a group called Preservationworks, they’re a great organization which aims to preserve the country's last remaining Kirkbride asylums. Greystone Asylum ended up getting demolished. It was one of the last Kirkbride asylums, which are commonly known for their massive sprawl. The thought behind Kirkbride asylums was that patients would be healed by the building itself, by features like huge windows and rolling lawns. Preservationworks came about around the time of the demolition of Greystone. Today, there are very few Kirkbride asylums left, and they all need protection.

Asylum from Lost in the Woods chapter
Asylum from Lost in the Woods chapter

CM: They’ve been dwindling in operation because they’re so big. Something that I loved about Greystone, was when you were walking through the building and there was this hole in the wall, and when you went though the hole, on the other side the paint was peeling and it was clear that it had been abandoned for a while. The wings were abandoned long before the other sections of the building.

RT: They literally sealed off these large expansions of the asylum, and just let them rot behind the walls. So you step through kicked in holes in the sheet-rock, and you see these wards that haven't been seen in decades.

Have you ever encountered ghosts?

CM: I don’t know what it was, I was in the tunnels of Overbrook and I was filming with an infrared camera. I’m looking at my camera and see this shadow at the very end of the hallway fly back really quick -- it was kinda hunched over and looked deformed in a way. And I noticed that and I’m like ‘whats that’. It ran back the other way, and that’s when I saw it with my naked eye and not the camera. So I walked over and there was nothing there.

And it was really strange where it ran -- right into a wall.

Christina filming with six foot long camera dolly
Christina filming with six foot long camera dolly

What kind of gear do you take with you?

RT: For video we have a lot of stuff --

CM: I have a computer controlled dolly system. It’s six-foot-long and it doesn’t break down. I have two backpacks, one in the front and one in the back. It looks ridiculous.

RT: We’re like a portable movie studio. We have anywhere from three to five bags of equipment. Obviously the camera equipment is very expensive, so we treat it carefully. But everything else we try to buy as cheap as possible because, in abandoned buildings, things can break. When we first get into a place I have to spend the first 30 minutes setting up the dolly, and once it’s set up we don’t want to take it down. We average 7 to 8 hours documenting a place.

CM: Sometimes when I go to a place it’s so beautiful that I feel like I can’t capture it in one trip.

RT: It’s a tremendous workload. We have to come back sometimes just to document the outside. We have walkie-talkies and communicate like that, but sometimes that doesn’t work because the old buildings have these thick walls -- and there’s no cell phone reception obviously.

It sounds like this has become a business for you.

RT: It started out as a hobby.

CM: But then we just started getting contacted and stuff.

RT: And now we’re writing another book and filming a documentary. With every passing year this is becoming more and more of a primary job. We’ve been blessed in making friends in the business.

Interior from Castle on the Hill chapter
Interior from Castle on the Hill chapter

An Excerpt From Antiquity Echoes

"It's dark in here.

The air is heavy with the scent of musk and decay. Sounds of light scratching, muffled and persistent, emanate from somewhere far off in the distance. It's most likely the limbs of nearby trees scraping across old window panes, but there's no telling for sure. The floor supports are rotten in places, making the simple act of walking slow and difficult. Directly above, the roofing has partially collapsed. Diverse plant life now grows where the newly admitted sunlight penetrates the otherwise enshadowed room, a small illuminated forest in a black world.

A unique kind of tranquility dwells in these abandoned places. Any building, once disused, seems to detach from the greater world around it. Nature slowly returns through the smallest of cracks, having never truly vacated in the first place. When left without people, it often takes very little time for a structure -- no matter how grand -- to slowly begin returning to dirt. There's something very poignant -- and also quite mysterious -- about this process."

Buy the book on Amazon.