Photography

The Haunting Appeal Of Urban Exploration Photography

  • January 31, 2013

This post was inspired by a conversation I had recently on the topic of exploring abandoned places.

Epsom Salt And Other Things

Ever since I was young, I have always been totally fascinated with the exploration of the unknown; specifically, the exploration of abandoned and forgotten places. There’s just something magical about exploring a location that has been forgotten and as such, is left to succumb to the ravages of time. Frozen in time, left to decay, and yet almost completely overlooked and seemingly unimportant in the hustle and bustle of daily life.

The question I am most often faced with is why. Why would anybody have such an interest or overwhelming desire to visit and photograph these places that are no longer used or occupied? And moreover, what could be possibly be so important about these kinds of places?

Telephone Plugboard

The truth is that the feelings associated with visiting these places cannot be adequately described, or captured through any means; in other words, it is something that one must experience, physically, in person, by going there. The act of photographing these locations not only serves as proof that one had such experiences, but perhaps more importantly, especially in societies that have a blatant disregard for historic places, such as the United States, is a means of preservation, or a reminder of what used to exist.

What lies beneath the facade of entropy is often beautiful in its own way. Sometimes hauntingly so, if one is visiting a place which has earned itself a reputation for promoting less than acceptable treatment of the human condition, such as abandoned psychiatric hospitals or asylums, whereas one can sometimes experience the wonder and the magic of happier times left behind by exploring an abandoned luxury resort or amusement park.

Sink Line-Up

Sometimes what one finds in these places is what one would expect to find based on the history of the location; other times, one comes across an artifact that is completely unexpected; it’s the promise of wonder through the adventure of the unknown of a modern day amateur archeology expedition.

When I was younger, perhaps around the age of ten, my childhood friend knew of an old barn that once belonged to a life long resident of the area who had passed away some many years before. The man was known to have stored all of his very special and private belongings in this old barn, and it was rumored to have been haunted by his ghost. Although his descendants had inherited the old barn and the property it sat upon, the rumored hauntings prevented anyone from purchasing the property.

I clearly remember my friend taking me to the barn one day, and as soon as we walked in, it was like taking a trip back in time. Behind the dusty spider webs were an amazing collection of antique artifacts from decades ago; the very well maintained, organized, and once cared about possessions of a persons life. There were amazing pieces here; everything from mundane bottles that once contained various things such as medicine, beverages, and the like to sculptures and old furniture. The barn itself was massive, the likes of which a farmer would use to store hay or straw, but instead this barn contained what I can only describe as a journey to a long ago time gone by that nobody talks about, and obviously can never visit.

Bathtub Of Debris

There are many times in my life that I sincerely regret not taking pictures, even though the cameras available at the time were nothing compared to the way they are today. It is the memories of our youth that often times shape our decisions and experiences later on in life. Just like the old barn that my friend took me to, the abandoned places that I visit today have the same forgotten feelings associated with them, only this time, I make it a point to document the places I visit not only for my own personal reminder of what I have experienced in my own life, but more importantly, as a means of preservation. If science cannot produce a device to facilitate time travel, visiting modern ruins is the one thing that will be a substitute until such a device is built.

Photos featured here have been copied from the following blog posts:
My Top 50 Urbex Photos / The Exploration Of A White Farmhouse | The Exploration Of The Hotel Adler Spa | The Exploration Of Old Lodge | The Exploration Of An Abandoned Farmhouse That Never Sold | Abandoned Stuckeys In Winter
500px has an interesting blog post, Best Of 2012: Urban Exploration.  Also be sure to visit AmericanUrbex.com.

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7 Comments on The Haunting Appeal Of Urban Exploration Photography

  • Nikki-ann says:
    January 31, 2013 at 5:05 PM

    I love urban exploration photography too. There’s some great websites out there showing it 🙂

    Living in the Mid Wales countryside, there’s not much urban exploration to be done here!
    Nikki-ann recently posted..Dead of Winter – The Review

    Reply

    • Thomas says:
      January 31, 2013 at 7:17 PM

      I think I may need to travel more to find more of these kinds of places. 🙂

      Reply

  • Janine Edmée Hakim says:
    February 1, 2013 at 7:36 PM

    Wow! This is just so beautiful! A porthole into “the other country we call the past” Thank you so much for sharing…..another special person who travels back into the past and shares glimpses with of it with the rest of us.

    Reply

    • Thomas says:
      February 1, 2013 at 7:41 PM

      Thanks so much for your praise and encouragement!

      Reply

  • Anne says:
    February 2, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    I used to operate one of those old switchboards in college. It took five people to run it because it was so big!

    Reply

  • AEBEX says:
    February 8, 2013 at 12:36 AM

    For anyone to ask or question what is Urban Exploration or why we explore is almost unfair. It’s reasons are varied and many. For some it may be the history, or, to answer the question “why”…,”why were people here”, “how did they benefit the community” and subsequently “why did they leave”….My reasons are varied..I explore because I desire to learn about my city or my surroundings, and It’s learning through discovery. Learning and discovering places that generally people don’t get to see or choose to forget. There is also the photographic component. I am documenting what I see but I try to do it in way’s that continue the narrative of the place/places that I visit. While some may find it “strange”, or “weird”, I find it extremely normal.

    “A sense of the past, at any given point of time, is quite as much a matter of history as what happened in it.” -Raphael Samuel

    If you would like to see some of my work, you can find me here”

    www.nycfstop.com
    www.flickr.com/photos/asf73/

    Reply

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