How One Photographer Found Beauty in Abandoned Homes Across the South

Keep reading to learn how Tanya Venditto found beauty and grace on the backroads of the south photographing abandoned houses.

 I grew up in a small country town in Central Florida, where everyone had a front porch. That’s where I played with my cousins and ate watermelon, grapes, peanuts, and mulberries from my grandfather’s garden. As I got older, developers started buying the land and knocking down the old houses, and before I realized it, they were all gone, and I didn’t even have a picture. I yearned to find small towns that still had their history and could bring back some memories from my childhood. Many people who comment and message me about my pictures say they remind them of when they were a kid and at their grandparents’ houses. That makes me happy!  

I’ve always had a camera and filled up photo albums full of pictures of my friends, family, and pets. When my son was born, I started doing portrait photography, and I would take my clients to the old historic houses in Plant City, Florida, for some beautiful vintage backgrounds and be surrounded by the Old Houses I love. Now my photography consists of the old houses I find exploring the back roads.


A fun day out for my mom, and I was driving the backroads to a small town, shopping at the antique stores, eating at a local restaurant, and driving around admiring the old houses with the big front porches. In North /Central Florida, the old houses usually have azaleas, dogwoods, and magnolias growing in the yards, so spring and summer are extra special with these beautiful southern blooms! I started photographing the abandoned houses about 25 years ago. My husband, son, and I had moved an hour north to Dade City, Florida, to escape all the traffic in the small town I had grown up in, and there were so many beautiful old historic houses. I was smitten! It felt like home.

How Often Do You Get to Hit the Backroads?

I love a road trip! At least once a month, I try to get away for a week in the North Carolina mountains, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, or Virginia. I research online small towns with a lot of history and drive around for days exploring the area. I go to the local restaurants, visit the fruit stands, and usually pick up some boiled peanuts. Sometimes there’s a house I’ve seen on Instagram, and if I can find the location, I will drive hours to photograph it myself.

Favorite Home You Have Ever Photographed?

It’s so hard to pick just one, but I love this house in Virginia because the front porch is so unique. I’ve been there twice, once in the snow, and I just adore it! I research online, talk to neighbors, or talk to some of the locals in town to find out the history of the homes. I’ve met some of the nicest people who love to share the history of where they’ve grown up. A double murder that happened in 1937 in Brooks County Georgia is attached to one of my favorite houses. There’s controversy over whether it happened to the family in another house they owned nearby or the big Plantation house that still stands on the family property.

Is There a Style You Gravitate Toward?

Definitely! I love a porch! There are so many different shapes and sizes of porches, but they all symbolize the family coming together and relaxing and living life. The Old Farmhouses are my favorite! They remind me of my childhood, and my grandparents and were usually built with local material by the owners. They might not be grand, but they’re welcoming.

What Does the Future Look Like For Your Photography?

The houses that I photograph are being destroyed quickly. They are used for controlled burns, and vandalized, and our history is disappearing with them. I would love to see a show on HGTV where we find these old Abandoned houses, discover their history, and find ways to preserve them the best we can. I’ve met some fellow explorers on Instagram, and we’ve gotten together and spent days photographing old houses! There’s a wonderful group of people who are passionate about this!

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