Exploring Country Roads: Rural Decay as Art

Driving the Backroads

I sometimes spend a morning or afternoon exploring country roads in search for old buildings to photograph. Part of my motivation is to create an archive of these disappearing structures. But I also find old, abandoned structures make interesting fine art photography subjects. Images of these decaying buildings can evoke feelings of nostalgia and stir memories of our youth.

On this late June morning I decided to catch the ferry across the Neuse River and head up NC 306 to explore Pamlico and Beaufort counites in eastern North Carolina. In the past I’ve had a lot of success finding interesting subjects in Pamlico county. This was my first photo safari into the countryside of Beaufort county. While I didn’t find a lot of likely candidates, I did find one very interesting old shack and a scenic view of the wetlands. I also decided to revisit an “old friend” for a different composition. The following are some of the resulting photos from the trip.

Photos Along the Way

This little shack sits along a country road in rural Pamlico County. The presence of a chimney hints that it may have been a small home at one time. Perhaps a precursor to the current tiny house movement? Regardless of it’s history it certainly has a lot of charm.
I came upon this scene while exploring rural Beaufort County in Eastern North Carolina. Wetlands are an important component in a healthy coastal ecosystem. The purify water and serve as a nursery for many species of game and food fish. The two bald cypress trees have lost their battle to survive to saltwater incursion.
The abandoned building was likely once a gas station serving the needs of the surrounding rural community. One can easily imagine old cars and trucks stopping by to refuel. Perhaps the business was outfitted with an old school visible gas pump or a pump with a glass globe on the top. The interior of the building possibly served as a popular gathering place for local farmers. There was a pot bellied stove to warm their chilled bones. It’s easy to imagine these hard working dirt farmers discussing the weather, the status of their crops and local gossip. Such was life in rural America for family farmers.
I thought I’d try a darker, more gothic presentation of this old shack. Found along a back road in rural eastern North Carolina, it appears this old building may have once been a dwelling. A precursor to today’s “Tiny Homes” if you will. The roof top chimney being the clue that it was once someone’s home. One can only guess about the former resident(s). Was it home to a hermit? Did a family once live in these cramped quarters? Perhaps it was a hunters cabin before the area was reclaimed for agriculture. It certainly stirs ones imagination.

Do you have a favorite photo from this series? If so tell me about it in the comments below. I love to hear from my readers and viewers.

This entry was posted in General Photography, History & Landmarks, Landscape Photography, Rural Decay, Uncategorized.


  1. Steve Heap July 7, 2022 at 7:38 am #

    Nice story, Bob! There are many intriguing sights off the main roads. I think I prefer the first old cabin although I think it would be worth trying a darker more moody processing approach as an alternative. I know I have mentioned this before, but I can immediately spot one of your images on twitter. They seem unnaturally sharp to my eye. But your images, your choice of course.

  2. Alexios July 9, 2022 at 11:28 pm #

    I like the first image Bob! I think an even darker mood would look great in this one. Driving off the main road can offer great photographic opportunities for sure!

  3. Anne July 12, 2022 at 3:24 am #

    Decay has great visual interest for me too. I am especially taken with the building that used to be an old gas station. Perhaps I should visit North Carolina one day

  4. Bill January 23, 2023 at 8:48 am #

    Very nice, Bob. Great narrative of an important part of American – the “leftovers” that helped our country grow and thrive. I find these relics of yesteryear to be attractive in their own right – both historically and photographically. WE, too, have several myriad examples throughout the Eastern Shore where we live.

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