GREENSBORO — The site of an old abandoned home on a country road attracts Michelle Bowers.
She exits her SUV, camera in hand, and picks her way through overgrown vegetation and onto rickety porches.
She snaps away, recording the exterior and sometimes the interior of places that once held family life.
She wonders: “What in the world happened to these people, that they left it?” Bowers said.
Bowers, a stay-at-home mother of three from Wake Forest near Raleigh, has turned her hobby into a popular Facebook photo blog.
In little more than a year, Abandoned Homes of North Carolina at http://tinyurl.com/AbandonedHomesNC has attracted more than 26,000 followers.
Others have taken notice. Bowers has signed a contract with a producer of reality television shows.
Now fans can see Bowers’ work up close in Greensboro.
From May 21 through July 21, Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema will present “11 Homes,” an exhibition of large-scale prints of Bowers’ photographs. A smaller side exhibit will showcase photos of other discoveries, including abandoned churches.
After following Bowers’ blog, Geeksboro owners Joe and Rachel Scott invited her to present her first exhibition there.
“When I walked in, I thought, ‘This is definitely where I need to do the first one,’ ” Bowers said. “It seemed like a perfect fit.”
Now 45, Bowers found her hobby as a child, when she and her older sister, Jennifer, explored abandoned homes in woods near their West Virginia home.
In 2013, Jennifer died at age 45 from liver failure. At the one-year anniversary of her death, Bowers felt she needed a hobby to distract her from grief.
She rekindled her passion for abandoned homes.
The attraction of old homes “takes us back to a simpler time, when people sat on the porch and talked,” she said.
Among Bowers’ photographs, Geeksboro visitors will see images of the Josiah Crudup house in Kitrell, a village in Vance County.
Crudup was a minister and congressman. His 1836 home was one of the earliest to have indoor plumbing and an interior elevator, on which slaves pulled their masters up and down, Bowers said.
Crudup himself is buried in a small family cemetery behind the house.
“Sadly, if work isn’t done on it soon, I fear its days are numbered,” Bowers said about the house.
She generally obeys No Trespassing signs, she said. She has never been injured, but there are hazards: rickety buildings, asbestos roofing, black mold and signs of past squatters.
She’s also discovered interesting gems of history.
One tipster suggested that she look for an old Rockefeller mansion in the town of Spring Lake, near Fayetteville.
After two hours in the woods, she found it, a 9,000-square-foot home that the Rockefellers had used as a Thanksgiving retreat. The military now owns it and uses it for training.
In a Raleigh home, she discovered personal effects left as if time had stopped: love letters from 1920, a mid-20th century dress lying over a chair, a hospital bracelet and Bible beside it.
“Those kind of houses, I have a sad feeling about them,” Bowers said.
Other finds have produced happy endings.
At one home, she came across family photos, tax records and a church ledger of tithes dating to 1933.
Bowers broke her rule of not taking items. She posted photos of them on her blog.
A woman with an interest in genealogy researched the names, and found their descendants.
When Bowers brought them the items, “They were teary-eyed,” she recalled. “They couldn’t believe they were looking at their great, great grandmother’s handwriting.”
“That was the one time I took something,” Bowers added. “And it turned out well.”