A fellow I know who is writing an MFA thesis on urban exploration sent me a 9 question survey on UrbEx. I thought a few of you might find both the questions and answers interesting. I’d be especially interested to hear YOUR answers to #5 and #9 in the comments section.
1. Did you have any early (childhood) experiences with abandoned spaces, or any memories that informed your curiosity for them?
Yes. I remember doing a steep hike with family along the Southern California coast to the site of a shipwreck. I returned to the site with friends in high school and revisited again in college. I’d forgotten about this experience until recently, when I happened across some old footage of the shipwreck online.
2. What was your first experience like? Were you alone or with others? Was it an impulsive trip or very planned out?
In high school I explored abandoned seacoast fortifications and bunkers in Southern California with friends. There was little or no planning — just teenagers driving around and goofing off. During college I explored the seacoast fortifications and bunkers of the Bay Area with friends. Again these were freewheeling adventures.
3. Briefly describe your political beliefs.
Voting on local issues is important, everything else is futile. I’m registered Green. I don’t read the paper. I don’t watch the news. These habits make my life much more peaceful.
4. Describe any powerful emotions you have experienced while on an urban expedition.
Depending on the location, the feelings can range from adrenaline charged excitement (holy crap look at this place!, did I hear footsteps?), to a calm, meditative observation (the quiet, my heartbeat, the stars).
5. Do you follow architectural practice in general?
What I photograph most often are buildings and vehicles. I enjoy studying architecture where I live and when I travel. This interest ranges anywhere from the modest 1920′s Craftsman homes in my neighborhood to a Julia Morgan designed building across town. From a ruined trailer park in one part of the desert, to a John Lautner home in another.
6. What do you think about the way the general population can access public, semipublic, commercial, infrastructural, and historical sites? Is everything as it should be?
Yes — it is what it is. A successful exploration could be anything from walking in to a public place, to getting permission, gray areas, or outright trespassing. Assessing the best methodology for accessing a site is just part of the work.
7. Do you make photographs when you go on expeditions? What do you look for in making these photos?
The experience of being at an interesting site under the moonlight is amazing. Photographs are a way to share the experience. The images are meant to document the location, with the added intangible mystery of place expressed through long, moonlit exposures.
8. Have any perilous encounters made you reconsider going back out on expeditions?
Nothing has made me want to stop. A few experiences have helped define the limits of my preferred access methodologies. I usually make better images if I’m not looking over my shoulder all the time.
9. What do you think of the newfound trendiness or UrbEx? Does it affect the way you think about or conduct the practice?
Is it trendy now, or does it just have a different name? I don’t use the term UrbEx. I prefer using terms like abandoned places and ruins. I don’t relate to a lot of the writing I’ve seen that uses the term UrbEx. The growth of UrbEx hasn’t affected my practice, but will hopefully increase the audience for my photography and photography workshops.