What Is Urban Exploration?
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What is Urban Exploration?

Have you ever wondered what’s behind the “No Trespassing Sign” on the fence, under the manhole cover in the street or what it looks like inside that old derelict building? You are not alone. In fact it’s very natural to be curious about the things you can’t and are not allowed to see.

While most people keep on doing their daily routine and follow the rules set by society, some people can’t help themselves and they see the “No Entry” sign as an invitation to discover and interesting place few people have access to. They go on adventures in and around the city and the hobby is referred to as Urban Exploring.

Basics of Urban Exploration

Urban Exploring is an activity that involves peeking into human built sites, building and ruins from the past and present. These places are usually off-limits for the public and a certain amount of effort and ability to cross the mental barrier to walk into these places are needed. Often physical strength is also needed to climb walls and fences. Of course there is nothing wrong with asking owners to get inside the door to if that is possible.

Urban Exploration is often shortened urbex or ue and the explorer itself is often referred to as an urbexer. Entering live sites is called Infiltration. Place Hacking is also a common name referring to the challenge of finding the correct spot to enter a place – the entry point.

A true urbexer don't break into places, steal things or destroy properties. They follow the code widely known in this underground community which is "Leave nothing but footprints, take only photographs".

Sometimes it involves trespassing on private property but that doesn't need to be illegal. The laws vary from country to country. Real explorers show places the respect they deserve and always have in mind that most places are owned by someone even if it has stood empty for 50 years.

It is difficult to estimate when the first urban explorers started out but people has always gone on adventures. One of the first persons that went missing doing urban exploring was Philibert Aspairt who went down to the catacombs in Paris. His body was first found 11 years later.

City Layers

If you look at a typical city it has many layers. The lowest levels has storm water drains, train tunnels, basements, bomb shelters, abandoned train stations, sewers, utility tunnels and maybe even old mines. On the surface there are abandoned houses and buildings, industrial sites, construction sites, theme parks, car graveyards and other off limits areas. And then you have the high places like rooftops, skyscrapers, cranes and tall masts.

You find the urbexer in all of these. The majority of urban explorers tend to use uninhabited and abandoned locations as their playground. Mainly because these sites are easier to get in to and often have decay and paint peeling which many find very beautiful in its own way.

Beauty of decay

Many explorers combine the thrill of entering abandoned places with urban exploration photography. The reasons vary from the need to document the adventures and share it online on social media to creating beautiful fine art pictures from unusual places.

The photographs also serve as historical preservation and documenting old places is of great use for historians.

Most people get excited and surprised that abandoned places like churches, hospitals and huge factories even exist. People tend to get emotional when they see pictures of neglected homes with family photos and furniture left. Why did the people living here just leave and why didn’t anyone take care of the place? What happened in this abandoned theme park and how was it here when it once was a happy place? Emotion and curiosity is always triggered in people when they look at pictures of abandoned places.

For many urbexers the sheer beauty of the morning sun shining through a broken industrial window and light up an old rusty machine is a magic and breathtaking moment. Paint peeling, water damage and the post-apocalyptic feeling of empty spaces are truly beautiful. Abandoned places have a pleasant calm feeling and the hours fly by when the search for things to photograph takes place.

Safety

The most important thing when performing Urban Exploring is safety. It’s more important than getting a great shot. If the room in an abandoned building lacks a floor or the ceiling is close to collapse you should consider not entering that space.

There are also dangers like asbestos, toxic waste, heights, enclosed spaces, broken electricity systems and hostile squatters. There are many beautiful pictures taken underground in storm water drains, but remember to check the weather forecast when entering them because they are designed to be filled with water. ‘Don’t go draining when it’s raining’ is a phrase to remember.

Safety equipment like helmets and masks to prevent mold and other nasty substances getting into the lungs are always a necessity.

The security guards on some sites are usually placed there just to make sure no one is inside the buildings and get hurt.

Community

I earlier days were urban explorers usually shady groups of people or individuals that kept their adventures for themselves. But then Internet came and the amount of explorers has exploded and image service sites like flickr and facebook are filled up with photographs of decay and dereliction.

There are forums, urbex blogs and groups you can hook up with explorers for missions in your own country and abroad. Google maps lets you find places and plan your next journey with ease.

Nevertheless a true urbexer does never reveal the location of where his or her beautiful shots are taken in fear of it getting destroyed by vandals or thieves. There are unfortunately lots of examples of that. With a certain amount of respect in the urbex community and own pictures to refer to you can get a long way.

All the pictures you see here are mine.

I’m an Urban Explorer.


Street Talk

Nice article! This sounds like an awesome way to explore!

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Thanks. :) For me it's the ultimate hobby: Social, exiting, adrenaline filled, thought provoking and peaceful at once and you learn lots of history and how society is built up. :)

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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