Romancing the Ruins: Photos Capture Beauty in the Debris

There is beauty in their decay.

In rusty brilliance, the remnants remind passersby there was life here. There was commerce, there were castle homes, there was economic might in the Empire State.

Robert Yasinsac ’99 has done his best to capture it before these abandoned buildings disappear.

He concentrates his urban exploration on the Hudson Valley, where factory ruins and grand mansions are left for dead. With his camera, Yasinsac brings history to life.

“There’s a lot of change happening out there right now,” says Yasinsac. Long-neglected riverfronts welcome new development like condominiums. At the same time humble, but historical, structures are swept away.

“I think we’re at a time when these are the last buildings that are still standing,” says Yasinsac, a history and anthropology major who has spent the better part of two decades capturing the ghostly remains of Upstate New York. “I am documenting what is still here. I’ve got all these pictures of places that aren’t around anymore.”

The Tarrytown native cannot restore these brick-and-mortar gems he first discovered on grade-school class walks around his hometown. In attempting to highlight the hidden dignity of faded façades and disintegrating interiors, Yasinsac also hopes to inspire restoration and save them.

A growing number of urban explorers have taken to cities and towns, posting discoveries on the Web as Yasinsac and his partner in photography Tom Rinaldi do at hudsonvalleyruins.org. It’s a promising phenomenon to Yasinsac, who works as historian at the Phillipsburg Manor historic site in Sleepy Hollow.

“Hopefully the more people [who are] involved and have even a casual interest, the more will get saved,” he says.

Photographs by Robert Yasinsac ’99

Words by Shane M. Liebler

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