9 haunting photos of nature reclaiming forgotten structures.

Photographer Rebecca Skinner has made a career by going places most people have forgotten.

She says she grew up on a farm and was always fascinated with inspecting the old cars her dad left sitting out in the yard or creeping around the old falling down barn.

As she got older, she ventured farther and farther into the unknown. She learned to work a camera, and she'd take it with her as she explored old factories, burned buildings, shut-down schools. Pretty much anywhere she knew she'd be alone.


"It's quiet. There's no people around," she says. "It's totally a different world, really, when you go into some of these places."

Some of Skinner's favorite moments are when she finds little bits of nature slowly overcoming these forgotten man-made structures.

A flower pushing through a crack in some stone. A tree in the middle of a closed-up factory.

"It's kind of sad," she says. "Some of these places are so beautiful and to see them getting taken over and falling apart is sad."

But maybe it's a sort of new life for many of these places, destined to be demolished or slowly decay. Instead, they find a new purpose and become beautiful again, though in a different way.

Here are some of Skinner's all-time favorite shots.

1. Small trees reach for sunlight inside an old school.

All photos by Rebecca Skinner, used with permission.

2. Water pools and overcomes the inside of this factory.

3. This truck loses what looks to have been a very long battle with some thick brush.

4. An overturned vehicle shelters a small tree.

5. Plant life bursts from the seams of an old carseat back.

6. Small ferns push through a pile of broken china.

7. Moss creeps its way slowly across this abandoned room.

8. Vines sprout through a broken factory window.

9. A chair sits, soon to be swallowed up by new life.

Skinner says the first time she ever photographed an abandoned house, a man with a shotgun showed up out of nowhere, asking what she was doing there.

(He was nice once she explained why she was there.)

Another time, while exploring an old river mill, she nearly stepped through a hole in the floor that would have dunked her into the river below.

Needless to say, it's dangerous work. But Skinner thinks it's important to photograph these places, these moments, before they're gone for good.

"These places are going so quickly," she says. "Every time I see some place I want to photograph, it might be gone the next time."

If her photos prove anything, it's that the world will always keep spinning and that the resiliency of Mother Nature is absolutely beautiful to behold.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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