Abandoned buildings from churches, farmhouses and schools lay scattered all over the state of North Dakota. For some, those buildings are mere representations of what once was. For others, those places create an aesthetic historical lens to the past.
John Piepkorn, professional photographer from Minnetonka, Minn., released his new book Nov. 9 titled “Abandoned North Dakota: Glimpses of the Past which is a photography book painting the forgotten past of several buildings.
Piepkorn wanted to showcase North Dakota in a light that not everyone sees and hopes his new book captures these abandoned places before they disappear.
“I truly think North Dakota is underappreciated. I love their wide open skies and the fact that there are few trees in some of those spots, even make composing a photograph better, in my opinion. Because you can maximize the sky, you can still see the subject you’re taking the photo of and compose it in a way that gets the best of what is out there,” he noted.
Piepkorn originally began his photography of abandoned places in North Dakota by creating a Facebook page several years ago. After creating some buzz for his unique shots and exquisite eye, Piepkorn received a message from American Through Time — a publishing company that showcases the history and heritage of communities around the country — asking him to create a book. With already driving across the state throughout his life, Piepkorn was delighted to get on board.
Though getting a book offer was astounding news for Piepkorn, however it meant deciphering which shots would be featured. But with a wide collection of schools, churches and ghost towns pictures, he decided to lay his book out in those categories and it took him six months to gather what he wanted to include in his photography book.
“... We’ve driven across North Dakota so many times that we start(ed) seeing all of these places and to me, I always wanted to know why would someone walk away from a farm? It’s got to be a hard decision for people to leave their home or their church or their school. And so, at the same time, you start driving on some of the backroads and find some of these places,” he said, adding, “When you walk into an old schoolhouse, you try to imagine what a school day was like for a kid in 1940. When you look around, there’s nothing man made your whole 360-degree view in some of those schools.”
With over 24 years of photography experience, the 55-year-old hopes that his new book will inspire people to venture out on some dirt backroads and appreciate what was left behind.
“It’s not just a thing to drive by; there’s some history there, and it’s just right out there in front of you. You can research it a little more, find out what happened there,” he added.
To purchase Piepkorn’s book, it is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, and select bookstores throughout North Dakota.