2009-11-15

Week 40.2009: Urban Exploring

Since childhood I have been fascinated with apocalyptic stories, stories where society has fallen down and has reorganized around the husks of what we currently work so hard to maintain. A huge part of those stories is how much of mankind's work stands up to nature and what falls. Many times this is used by the story teller as a metaphor for how strong or weak mankind is but, unlike other elements of the apocalyptic story, we can see what exactly will happen due to the hundreds thousands of abandoned buildings all over the world. A few years ago I became active in exploring and photographing these sites.

Fixture    Last Artifact

Urban Exploring, as it is frequently called, means a lot of things to a lot of people so I would like to make it clear what I am doing. I explore buildings and sites that are unoccupied and who's owners have appeared to abandon the property. I do not forcibly enter, most often there is either someone who has come before me and left a way in or Mother Nature has broken things down. While I frequently see it, I do not tag anything or trash the building. Finally, I do not take anything from the site. I do photograph and a camera is often the only piece of equipment I have with me besides a flashlight.

Evidence

I have visited an old laundry machine factory with it's own power plant where pidgins cooing and the echos from that scared me into thinking there were others in the building; a one hundred year old hotel where I watched a beautiful sunset from what used to be a rooftop padio complete with fireplace; an old train yard, complete with roundhouse. All very cool places that I never would have seen had I not been willing to search them out. All places where nature was methodically tearing them apart. I saw an abandoned garage where a tree had grown out of the second floor and the root structure eventually tore down the floor and the wall it was attached to.

Addressograph

It's not always rosy. To be brutally honest, this is breaking and entering, a crime in every state in the union. I have been caught both by property owners and police but, because I have been honest and never fled, have never been charged. I have had a shotgun pointed at me by a property owner and, on another occasion spent almost an hour in the back of a police car while they pulled my record and looked through my gear. Police and owners are not the only people you need to look out for. Homeless people frequently live in these buildings and for their own safety will frequently set up booby traps usually consisting of light bulbs covered by trash that pop when you walk on them although I've heard of worse.

Lost Records

Most recently I visited a mining town that was shut down in the 80's with a friend. This was the largest site I've ever explored with around 50 houses, a small town area with a mining office, hotel, shop, doctor's office and maintenance facilities. As usual, the site had been ransacked but the natural decay, the stuff I am interested in, was there as well. Nature, adapting and tearing it down.

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