Lost and found: Photographer Bronson Dorsey rediscovers the forgotten places of Texas

In the summer of 2009, Bronson Dorsey went on a photo camping trip to Big Bend Ranch State Park in West Texas. Driving back to his Austin home, the retired architect came across a few abandoned buildings on the side of the road and felt compelled to stop for an hour and snap a few shots. It occurred to him as he returned to the road that these represented a minuscule fraction of the number of similarly neglected or forgotten structures scattered across his home state, including the ones he drove past throughout his upbringing in Bay City and Fort Worth.

Thus began an eight-year endeavor spanning thousands of miles, through Texas’ small towns and down its dustiest, loneliest roads. Dorsey photographed hundreds of buildings ravaged by time or adapted for new uses and diligently researched their pasts, posting his findings on his blog. Now, some of those photos and accompanying stories are collected in his new book “Lost, Texas: Photographs of Forgotten Buildings,” published last May. We spoke with Dorsey to learn more about the genesis of the project, the insights he gained along the way, and the historic preservation movement in Texas.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Q: Your book was a long time in the making. Did you have a sense of the scope of the project you were undertaking when you began it, or did it evolve into something larger over time?

A: It was very much an evolutionary process. It really started as just a photographic project. Then somebody suggested that it might make a good book, and that intrigued me, but also scared me. It’s a pretty daunting idea, to think of doing a book of any kind. I decided to start a blog and begin researching the buildings and writing a little about them, learning more about the history of not only the buildings, but the towns they were in. That was in 2011, and I finally got in front of the Texas A&M Press roughly two years ago. It had a long gestation period.

I wasn’t on the road all the time. I would research, find buildings, go out and photograph them, post a blog, and do it again – until I went to work on a project out in West Texas. I was by myself, so I’d hop in the car on Friday after work, and head out into the wilds of West Texas and the Texas Panhandle. When I’d get to places, I’d find things serendipitously too, just driving down an old country road and following my nose, so to speak.

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