Photographer Documents Miss. Abandoned buildings, History | Mississippi News

By MINA CORPUZ, The Clarion Ledger

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — When Tennessee photographer Jay Farrell sees an abandoned building, he sees opportunities to learn more about who lived or worked there and how a community has changed.

“I try to see what objects are left behind and what stories they can tell,” said Farrell, who lives in Nashville.

He traveled across Mississippi and other southern states to take pictures of abandoned buildings. Farrell published these images and the history of the buildings and communities in a series of books.

His Mississippi books were curated from two trips, one in February 2019 in the northern part of the state between the Delta and Starkville, and another in December 2019 in the southern part of the state which included stops in Hattiesburg, McComb and Natchez.

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“Mississippi is one of those states that people don’t talk about or explore,” Farrell said. “It’s a state few people know unless you’re from there.”

The first book on the northern part of the state published in December 2019 and the second book on the southern Mississippi published in October 2020.

He visited old homes, businesses, and industrial areas on his travels around Magnolia State and the South.

In Choctaw County, Farrell visited an abandoned house with photographs and other abandoned items, which he found frightening.

“It was like Grandpa left and never came back,” he said.

Whenever he is in an abandoned building, Farrell said he is aware of where he is stepping and monitors his surroundings if the building appears unstable. His goal is to leave the space as he found it.

Sometimes he works with local historians to learn more about abandoned places and visits them, which he did in Aberdeen. Farrell said a local historian took him to an abandoned ordinance factory, an old prison and a pre-war house.

After travels, Farrell researches the places he has photographed.

In Oktibbeha County, he took a photo of an old business called Gentry’s Store. Through his research, Farrell found a glass company in the community using the same last name. He contacted the business and spoke with the owner whose father, it turned out, once ran the closed Gentry store.

Farrell began taking pictures of abandoned buildings five years ago, starting in Nashville at an old sawmill.

As Nashville has become more gentrified, abandoned places have been harder to find, Farrell said. The area where the mill once stood now has newer buildings and cafes, Farrell said.

Photography can feel lonely, Farrell said, but he’s been able to meet people on his travels.

He couldn’t travel that far during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Farrell said he continued to explore abandoned buildings in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Farrell said he plans to return to Mississippi and visit the Jackson area to explore and try Capital Area dishes.

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