"The structures I photograph are forsaken, deserted," writes Robert de Gast. "No further energies are to be expended on them, not even the energy to tear them down. Often a wreck of a building squats in the middle of a field, forcing a farmer to make tortured and elaborate turns when plowing his field. It would be so much easier to burn the house or barn - in a few minutes the land would be cleared. But it isn't so simple."In Unreal Estate, the photographs of Robert de Gast reveal what "isn't so simple" about the abandoned buildings so common on the Chesapeake's Eastern Shore. His striking color photographs of ghostly houses and weathered details illustrate the powerful hold architecture has on us, even when a building no longer serves its purpose. Like more ancient ruins, the abandoned structures of the Shore tell stories of decline and departure. Some appear proud and sturdy, even beautiful, seen across a wide marsh or meadow. Others are tortured abstractions - one Cobb Island house twists almost comically to one side, a single timber postponing its collapse.In his introduction, de Gast tells of structures abandoned as a result of both shrinking population and difficult circumstances. The Depression of the 1930s began the decline. During World War II many residents left for Norfolk, Baltimore, and other cities to find work. Postwar mechanization led to larger farms - and the need for fewer laborers. Today the Eastern Shore counties of Accomack and Northampton are among the poorest in Virginia.But de Gast finds a different kind of wealth in the region. He is drawn to places named Mutton Hunk and Frogstool, Clam and Oyster, Chincoteague and Kiptopeke. His photographs are not of people, but they are full of human feeling. They evoke mystery and romance, compassion and nostalgia. Here are houses where children shouted and played, and shops where old friends gossiped. Here people lived and dreamed - and left behind familiar shapes that time and nature now alter and reclaim.