Saskatchewan

Sask. photographer captures a time gone by in 'Forgotten Saskatchewan' exhibit

Chris Attrell is bringing new life to old buildings around Saskatchewan with his photography.

Chris Attrell became hooked on abandoned buildings after a trip down Highway 13

Attrell, who resides in Shaunavon, Sask., became hooked on abandoned buildings and structures when he took a day trip down Highway 13 in Saskatchewan over 15 years ago. (Chris Attrell)

Chris Attrell is bringing new life to old buildings around Saskatchewan.

His new photo exhibit, Forgotten Saskatchewan, is currently on display in Eastend and Shaunavon, Sask. It includes photos of abandoned buildings and structures around the province.

Attrell, who resides in Shaunavon, became hooked on old buildings when he took a day trip down Highway 13 in Saskatchewan over 15 years ago.

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      "I became fascinated with all these buildings," he told CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend.

      He said it's like going to a living museum, except there's no admission fee.

      "These are buildings that people built, lived in, or that they've worshipped in, they worked in, and they've been abandoned for decades and they're still there," he said.

      "You could just imagine what life must have been like in those days."

      Capturing history

      Attrell said it's also a chance to give people a glimpse into Saskatchewan's history.

      He said churches are one of his favourite buildings to photograph.

      Chris Attrell says churches are one of his favourite buildings to photograph. (Chris Attrell)

      "Back in those days, that was like the social network for a lot of people," he said.

      "It was more than just a building, it was the social fabric was centred around a lot of these kind of places. So there was a huge meaning to the early settlers," he said. "To me, that's what I think is a big draw."

      Listen to Chris Attrell's interview with Saskatchewan Weekend here: 

      Chris Attrell travels the province capturing images of Forgetten Saskatchewan,and his photos are stunning. He joins me to share stories of the places he's been and the people he's met along the way. 10:50

      He said photographing old buildings can give people a chance to relive past memories, especially if the photo contains a building that no longer exists.

      "It gives people the opportunity to look back and say, 'Oh wow, I remember that... I can't believe there's only one picture of it,'" he said.

      Chris Attrell said his photos are a way to give people a glimpse into Saskatchewan's history and relive old memories. (Chris Attrell)

      Along with those memories, Attrell says he often comes across compelling stories.

      He says one of those stories that stands out involves an abandoned stone house southwest of Moose Jaw, Sask.

      "The lady lived in it until about 1960 and she showed me her bedroom that she had to share with half of her nine sisters," he said. 

      He said what really stood out for him was hearing the woman talk about watching someone driving over a hill towards her family's house.

      "Sometimes when you're at these places, if you could just tune out all the other stuff going on around you, you can almost imagine you're stepping back in time," said Chris Attrell. (Chris Attrell)

      "That's when she found that one of her siblings passed away, and I could look at the same window and see where that car came," he said.

      "Sometimes when you're at these places, if you could just tune out all the other stuff going on around you, you can almost imagine you're stepping back in time."

      Another story that stands out to him is when he photographed a building believed to be one of the spookiest in Saskatchewan.

      "It's terrifying-looking to some people because it's so worn and beat up," he said.

      "But I always went there and I felt a certain sense of peace. It's just the opposite of being spooked out. Then I found out later on that it was a happy family who lived there. The man who was born is still alive and it was a joyful, happy place."

      Chris Attrell says he often comes across compelling stories when he's out taking photos. (Chris Attrell)

      Attrell's photos are on display at the Eastend Library until March 31. They'll also be shown at the Harvest Eatery in Shaunavon.

      He hopes that retired people and those who lived in the area feel a sense of nostalgia, "to come out and say, 'Oh, I remember those kinds of schools. I remember those kind of buildings,' and just remember stories of the buildings that they don't see anymore."

      About the Author

      Cory Coleman is a reporter, web writer and associate producer for CBC Saskatchewan. Have a story idea? Email cory.coleman@cbc.ca

      With files from Saskatchewan Weekend

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