Third Floor Hallway

The following article was written by Lisa Pellegrene, and was originally published by on June 25, 2019.

Photographer Thomas Slatin discusses the Westholm Hotel and how photographs of properties help to preserve history.

Third Floor Hallway

A recent interview with urban exploration photographer and writer, Thomas W.P. Slatin explores the important purposeful reasons behind a genre of photography known as “urban exploration.” There is a lot involved to photograph properties, many of which have been unoccupied for years. Slatin often photographs properties that have historical significance. The Westholm Hotel located in Stamford, New York is a property that Slatin recently photographed, after the property remained dormant for approximately 20 years. Urban exploration photographers know that there is interest in their work from their peers in professional photography, other industry professionals, and from those with a genuine curiosity relating to their work. Urban exploration photography gives others viewing the pictures a chance to explore the unknown; and to see through the photographer’s eyes, buildings and locations once an integral and often uplifting part of history. This may represent memories of outings, or a place which represented the vitality of a community and a happy time where a community thrived in happiness and also economic stability, for example. Architecture can be remembered through photographs. Remarkable buildings which once stood strong, should be documented and remembered. Through photography, the photography of properties in this case, history and the beauty of unique properties may be remembered, and referred to time and time again, even after a property no longer exists in its physical form. This is one of the crucial elements of urban exploration photography, properties which cease to exist, sometimes due to abandonment of the property, can still be remembered for many years to come.

Going into a property which has been left behind to document the property through photographs can also assist in shining the light to provide the hope and possibility that a property is still able to be restored.

When a property is not able to be restored, it can still be remembered for many years to come. This is a purposeful element of urban exploration photography, documenting properties and preserving history well beyond the properties physical longevity. Sometimes the photographs help a developer to restore a property or to physically maintain original artifacts or structures of a property which represent a significant part of history.

“I remember discussing issues with preservation with an architect in New York City, who had been a lifelong friend of my father,” states Slatin. Continuing, “as we were visiting the Museum of Natural History, and discussing my photography as it relates to my passion and dedication to explore and document old architecture, this architect reiterated the importance of photographing as many older buildings as I possibly can. Photographing the properties which I find to be interesting and beautiful, as the photographs do preserve the memory and the architecture.” According to Thomas Slatin, paraphrasing this architect, he recalled a story where he once had a person approach him asking for blueprints of a property in development, this was a property in the process of being built. When this architect asked why, the man spoke of the plans in ten years to take the building down, which was a bit shocking yet it happens,” concludes Slatin.

Slatin explores and photographs properties that typically have been in existence for a long while. One such property is the aforementioned Westholm Hotel, located in Upstate New York. This property was built prior to the turn of the nineteenth century and was in operation until the late 1990’s. Having been abandoned for nearly twenty years, sadly the once extremely vibrant hotel is in the process of being torn down, as it was not maintained and restored in time for it to remain standing in its original splendor. The state of disrepair of the property prior to part of it collapsing was significant. The current owner Victoria Filonenko  “tried to restore it before it was too late to do so.”

According to Filonenko, she is salvaging some remnants and some of the  original woodwork to be able to rebuild, honoring as much of the physical history of the hotel as possible. Thomas Slatin reached out to previous owners and real estate companies for years, “actually nearly a decade,” according to Slatin to ask permission to photograph the abandoned property. “Victoria thought I should photograph the property. She has been without a doubt the most welcoming, and accommodating property owner that I have ever worked with and she cares about preserving the history and beautiful memories of The Westholm. Many New York City residents travelled to The Westholm in its heyday.  The following photographs are provided by Thomas Slatin and represent some of the last photographs of the property prior to it being torn down. The current owner, Victoria Filonenko plans to completely rebuild it from the foundation up, into a new prosperous and uplifting structure, “which will always honor the beauty of a remarkable venue that truly thrived on so many levels for nearly a century,” concludes Filonenko. Slatin has provided the photographs which he finds to be most inspiring, even considering the hotel’s state physically before it was torn down, there was still much beauty to be found, and there always will be in its memory.


News article written by Lisa Pellegrene.
Photography by Thomas W.P. Slatin.

12 thoughts on “The Importance Of Urban Exploration Photography To Document History

  1. Thanks so much. I love this picture! Urban exploration photography gives others viewing the pictures a chance to explore the unknown; and to see through the photographer’s eyes, buildings and locations once an integral and often uplifting part of history. Kudos to the photographer!

  2. Photography helps in restoration and history preservation.. The abandoned buildings can be remembered years after they are being torn down..Some may be renovated..Nice piece

  3. I’m really proud of what they have done! Urban exploration is a really amazing choice since most photos nowadays are usually about people and fashion. Definitely wanna see this content in the future. Thank you so much!

  4. Urban photography really helps with history. It shows how the building is in that current situation. It describes the situation more vividly and seen with naked eyes.

  5. This is a well written piece for photography exploration. This kind of photography is a hopeful one on a damaged property that it still to be restored.

    When a property is not able to be restored, it

  6. To be honest I am not a fan of subjects like these/ Not only does it look like the buildings are about to cave in but it can be dangerous. Although to be fair this one still seems to be in good shape. A worthy restoration project.

  7. This is a good one especially for the readers. With your skill you give us the lead way to make our imagination run riot. It really an awesome thing you are doing.

  8. Preserving the property through photographs is interesting. Capturing the what it was, what it is, and what it has become.

  9. I have appreciated the importance of photography – in its power to be able to preserve the memories of a moment long gone, of something or someone who was briefly there in time to be captured by a single camera shot.

    I find it sad that not a lot of people appreciate history, and are just content staring at pictures of those days gone by. But with people like Thomas Slatin and Victoria Filonenko, there may be hope yet left for the remaining, sometimes unsung, mostly forgotten buildings and properties from the past. This will allow it to be better preserved for the future generations, and also have them marvel at the beauty that enchanted those who have seen it in its heyday.

  10. I personally love all of your photos because they always have a message and also serve to preserve history. Keep up the good work

  11. I was ignorant of taking and properly keeping of photographs some years. But I really appreciate learning and now knowing the importance of taking and keeping photographs for better analysis in the nearest future. It even makes one remember old memoires of know and unknown fellows and things. Thanks for this article that turns lecture.

  12. I can see the importrance of your work Tom, you are showing to the world trought your pictures how was the life for people in those places, and even for future generations this can be a valuable information to know more about the actual generation.

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