Shaun O’Boyle has been photographing ruined landscapes and buildings, primarily in the mid-Atlantic region, for more than twenty-five years. This collection of photographs features some of his best work. The book is divided into four sections, each representing a type of site now abandoned—prisons and mental health institutions, steel production facilities, coal mining and processing facilities, and a weapons arsenal. These photographs are hauntingly beautiful; they are also historically and culturally instructive.
Modern Ruins begins with an introduction by architectural essayist Geoff Manaugh, who offers insight into why people are so drawn to ruins and what they might mean to us in a larger psychological sense. Brief essays by noted historians Curt Miner, Kenneth Warren, Kenneth Wolensky, and Thomas Lewis offer social and historical contexts for the sites documented in the book. These sites include Eastern State Penitentiary, Bethlehem Steel, and Bannerman's Island Arsenal, among others. The book concludes with an interview with the photographer that touches on his fascination with ruins and explores some of his procedures for documenting them. Modern Ruins is a compelling collection of stunning and melancholy photographs, one that helps us hear these abandoned places speak.