Why Urban Exploring Can Never Be A Mass Photography Thing

Urban Exploring or Urbex is the art of photographing and documenting desolated, abandoned city locations before time sank its claws into them completely. If you are not really sure what  I am talking about you can check the works of Daniel Marbaix (featured) and David Van Bael.


The work is quite enchanting, but if you try to get into that field of photography, and ask about those locations, you will probably get a cold shoulder and those locations will stay secret. and there is a good reason for that.

David Van Bael just shared this photo he found over the web (sadly we have no source for it) of Villa Amélie. Villa Amélie used to be a pilgrimage for urban explorers in France. Sadly its location went out it was destroyed. (We are not sure about all the rooms in the Villa, but this room is definitely not what it used to be). It really shows how quickly a place can be trashed once revealed to the general public.Why Urban Exploring Can Never Be A Mass Photography Thing

Here are few images of the place after it was cleaned up from vandalism. Still beautiful, but not quite the same as it was in its natural glory. -if you go back in time even further, you can find photos with the piano still standing on its feet






[photos via David Van Bael]

  • https://www.facebook.com/jonathan.keys1 Jonathan Keys

    Such a shame, Around the UK they only stay “just left” for a couple of months before the scrap merchants take away all of value,,,,

  • Mallory Knox
    • OsFa Urbex

      Ehm… don’t get me wrong… but I’ve seen better :D… Kinda smell’s like “free cheap advertising” to post the link… I also did in my reply but that was to demonstrate something…

      • womppp

        BOOOM! Right there. You’ve proven your point about the kind of pretentious d!ck that you really are.

        “don’t get me wrong… but I’ve seen better :D”

        By the way after looking at your website i can say the exact same thing.

        • OsFa Urbex

          What exactly? That I advertise my site? Really? As I recall I posted my site two times: both in an attempt to clearfy a point of which I had examples.

          So I really am a d!ck, pretentious on top of.that? Why exactly? For speaking my mind? In a non offending way?

          Pffff get a live?

        • OsFa Urbex

          Oh btw I never said MINE were the better ones??

  • Matthew Wagg

    Its the same with locations as well. The reason I’m secretive about the locations I shoot in is because I don’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry trampling their size 10’s all over it and ruining what is a beautiful place. Also, why should I give away a location I’ve spent time and energy finding for a certain look just so everyone else can have access to the same pictures as mine. No thanks.

    • Avid Hata

      Award for the most seemingly paranoid comment ever, god forbid someone take the same photo as you, maybe have a read about how many paintings are copies of each other (god forbid we get on the discussion of music)….

      • ext237

        Gotta side with Matthew Wagg. We may be smart and careful, not disturbing the stage. There are those that are bent on destruction of nice situations — for the sake of being destructive. Artistry isn’t being handed an address and flicking pictures. The adventure of the search is a huge part of the Urbex experience.

        • Avid Hata

          Obviously, so enjoy your adventure of your search instead of whinging about how things are destroyed after you’ve came and went…

          • ext237

            The only people that have complained at me about refusing to hand out gps coords are little girly folks who also complain when I invite them to put on their boots, fill a backpack, and bring along a sleeping bag to go scout in the woods for a weekend.

            After a weekend hike and not finding anything, members of the group sit around the campfire and start handing out coord with each other left and right! :)

          • Avid Hata

            wasn’t really my point, if you don’t get my point you’re reading it as a reflection on yourself, which again if you think about an abandoned site is the wrong way to think about things, it’s not yours… get over yourself

          • http://www.sin3rgy-creative.com/ David Liang

            I gotta agree with you. I understand wanting to preserve a place from what is likely going to happen if a mass of people explore it. But then again abandoned places or “secret” areas in parks are not there for people to claim possession of. Good intentions or not public access means public access.

      • womppp

        I’m sure the owners who have left these places in ruins would also not be to happy finding out about people like Matthew stomping in their private property to take photos only for the reason to say “I’m the only one who knows this place.” I enjoy it all, even the joy of not knowing where this place is. but the attitude of these hipsters boosting their egos cause they found a place..

    • Reitzel

      I do agree with you when it comes to vandalism, but i dont like the idea of being secretive about all your locations. Why cant we just share and work together, instead of keeping all the amazing locations for yourself.
      We should work together, not against each other.

    • Ren

      And that’s what I hate about photography. Ponces like Matthew Wang making everything secret. God forbid anyone else might be able to use a location like that for their own project.
      Same pictures? How pretentious. There are infinite ways to photograph a scene. You’re not as special as you think you are.

      • Ren

        Eh… Wagg, not Wang. My apologies.

      • womppp

        Ask Chase Jarvis what many photographers said and thought about him when he first came out sharing photography secrets with everyone. He was ridiculed, hated, and so many other things. Guess what it brought everyones game up, Because now anyone can do what that photographer could do. 😉 So yup Matthew is scared only because his skills are limited. But it’s his right and he can come beg for our locations anytime he wants.

    • Sue

      Is the property for sale?

      • womppp

        Sadly most of these beautiful places are lost forever. No one owns them no one can sell them.

    • Christopher

      I agree 100%. Nothing is sadder than seeing a nice location turn into a tourist trap with carloads of visitors every weekend. Soon enough, the neighbors are pressuring the city to “do something” about what has suddenly become a public nuisance. And “doing something” almost invariably leads to “tearing it down”. So whether we’re there just for photography or to press for its refurbishment, its a net loss for us when these places turn into vacant lots.

  • https://www.facebook.com/justin.akard Justin Akard

    People are shit.

    • Avid Hata

      Award for the most bleak and useless comment ever, good job.

      • ext237

        award for anonymous award awarding.

        • Avid Hata

          don’t feel like signing up for another goddamn site (or sharing my facebook, google+, twitter details with yet another site that will sell it) but hell, I’ll come buy ya coffee and we can sit down and have a chat if you like :)

          • ext237

            You can make me that coffee with water found in a creek, boiled over a camp fire and sterilized — after searching for forgotten plantation and homestead properties for 10 hours a day for three days in the mosquito-laden swamps of Louisiana or back woods of deep Texas.

          • Avid Hata

            oh, you’ve made your point, I obviously know nothing about site exploration, good a(SS)umption on your point….

          • Kevin

            So I guess you guys are just pricing Jason Akard’s point. Good job.

          • Avid Hata

            I’m sorry Kevin, can you elaborate on that?

          • OsFa Urbex

            And that (ss) quoting almost tipped the Godwin scale…. Can this useless discussion please end?

  • http://twitter.com/lauraCulum laura ulum

    right on point!

  • Avid Hata

    Sorry guys but this comes off a bit pretentious (especially the comments), let me refer you back to the hobbit:

    This thing all things devours;

    Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;

    Gnaws iron, bites steel;

    Grinds hard stones to meal;

    Slays king, ruins town,

    And beats mountain down.

    Get over it, sites change, do you think anything you’ve photographed looks anywhere near it’s original form (or what the person who created it wanted it to look like)?

    • Alex_L_H

      and burns, and spraypaints and smashes. it’s not pretentious to lament the destruction of something beautiful, that’s the kind of thing that hastens it’s permanent demolition, and thereby loss to everyone that would have otherwise enjoyed it.

      • Avid Hata

        but what is being discussed here is not telling other people and keeping it secret so it’s a moot point saying that it’s a loss to other people who would have enjoyed it, you got four choices here:

        1) keep it to yourself, and no one else gets to know about it (except the local youths who find it and destroy it anyway in many cases, which is part of the decay)
        2) get security around the site (which then becomes a nightmare of obtaining permits to get into the site to take photos), or worse yet get a heritage firm involved which will spend 20 years restoring it and then charge you to see something you didn’t want to see
        3) remove all the idiots in the world (not gonna happen)
        4) get on with it, take the pictures while you can and appreciate your photos for what they are, a treasured moment in time that will never exist again

        • Avid Hata

          Just to be clear here I’m not saying what people do is right, but there’s ways to appreciate even their destruction, i.e. comparing different forms of graff that you find in different countries for one. Destruction by fire can also be very interesting to photograph as well. All I’m saying is it’s a bit silly to expect things to stay the same forever. The pretentious attitude comes in when you think that you have the best opinion of how an abandoned (and therefore open to everyone) place should look and remain.

    • AlexisZ

      I agree with you, Avid Hata. It’s not the fear that these places will be destroyed — they WILL be, one way or the other. Moreover, few, if any, of these sites are hard to find, they’re just hard to get to. (And God forbid that someone should go and take a better picture than one you took!)

      Also, the post’s implication is that it’s photographers who will create the mess, rather than vandals, who will get there anyway — something no serious photographer/UEr is going to do, and only someone serious about it is going to go through the hassle of exploring.

      Finally, the truly serious photographers and even the pros that I’ve dealt with have always been encouraging and never had a problem giving out information about locations (or more).

      • womppp

        Well said and thank you.

  • Jared Lawson

    Very sad but excellent photography. I am intrigued by it, but what a beautiful place left for ruins. California Photographer

  • De Jos

    Feels like someone is trying to prevent a hype haha
    Most urbexpeople are copy cats any way

    • OsFa Urbex

      hmmmm… care to explain that point of view?

      It’s impossible to make a photo in a certain setup that hasn’t been done…. Not just in urbex but in any type of photography. All you can do is introduce your “fingerprint” into it … But the basic idea… it has been done before….

      But hey…. Grow a pair and stop posting anonymous… Because hiding in the shadows is the easiest…. Don’t make “bold” statements if you don’t want to be in the open…

      Als je dit snapt tenminste…

      • Banksy

        It’s no bold statement and yeah I rather stay behind the curtain. Don’t stumble over the copycat/anonymous please. Didn’t wanted to offend you. Most urbexpeople doesn’t say all urbex people. but if you like the shoe then you can put it on your feet if you like…

        Just to explain it: there are more people doing the urbex thing ‘to show that they have visited a place’ then rather for the love of a decent frozen moment in time.

        And there is no real secret to most of the urbex locations anyway more then enough sites and groups to get the location.

        I have ears, eyes and a brain.
        It’s just becomming more and more of a hype…

        Uw beste vriend,


        • OsFa Urbex

          After reading your reply: I take back the “care to explain”. Luckly I count myself to the freesing part 😀

  • Rick Scheibner

    Rural exploration is just as fun, but takes a little more gasoline.

  • OsFa Urbex

    There is always a discussion about share or not to share. I’m in the “only to the people I really know and trust”. There is a small circle of Urbexer who can get a pin (location) without hesitation… The rest can get a small reply: “ehm… yeah right… I don’t think so”… If the even get a reply at all.

    I don’t care to see my shots duplicated… It’s a compliment and yet another good reason to get more and more creative “on scene”. Just this weekend I visited two “mint” locations. At the first location I did the shots everybody does with some small detailing shots to get my personal “swagger” in the serie…

    I’ve seen it happen to many times that a location has gone down the drain because the location was TOO well known…

    For instance: take a look if you want at: http://osfa.nl/Foto/urbex/Huize-St-Anna.aspx…. There is a year between picture 7 and 11… And trust me… the hallways were similar… The gears from picture 8 and 9 were stolen..

    Urbex will always have “mystery” to it. Including the “hard to get in”… But if you’re “in”… It is just………..

    • Wolfgang_Zimmerman

      Most interesting to see the comparison between Nos. 7 and 11. Thanks for posting that. Love No. 3 BTW :)

      As to sharing locations, I mean, would you share your girl/boy friend? 😉

      • OsFa Urbex


  • DudeduD

    While I agree, this particular location (Villa Amelie), is a terrible example. It sits, completely accessible, directly beside a what looks to be a junior/high school. Whether this places location was ever given out or not it was inconsequential.

  • Tim

    The are only two outcomes for the subjects of urbex: annihilation or rehabilitation (usually the former). Part of what gives urbex its charm is the shabbiness of these places, and they’re only going to get shabbier so why worry about it. I freely give out locations and if you can take a better picture than me, so be it.


  • CS

    The excitement of “urbex” is largely finding the locations and being a part of a community that trades privileged information and access. If a photographer doesn’t share a location because they are afraid of someone stealing their idea, that is just a sign of a bad or paranoid photographer. If they don’t share a location because they don’t want it to be trashed or become a tourist attraction, I understand wholly.

  • Aaron Steele

    I’ve done my fair share of these types of shoots…abandoned hospital…old mansions, factories etc. Some with models some without. It definitely can be fun

    As for these, they seem the same to me… arent they looking at how time has its way with everything? whether that is 100 years ago or 2 days the genre is the same. If it is all about “i was here first” or “mine” or “I did it first” …well you are deluding yourself. Just enjoy

  • ISO640

    I do almost exclusively urban/rural exploration photography. I’m in the camp that trust has to be earned and then you can share the location. For example, there’s an abandoned mansion I went to and it had some vandalism but nothing was too horrendous (no “dick” graffiti). A week later I saw shots from someone else who had gone shortly after me and the banisters were destroyed. Do I think it was other explorers? I doubt it (though I have seen video from “explorers” where they videotape themselves tearing a place apart)…I’ve run into taggers and scrappers. Anyway, the majority of the people doing the damage aren’t explorers.

    Finally, who cares if someone gets the same shot as you? You got it first, if you’re that competitive about things and as others have said, nothing is original. Photography, music, movies, TV shows, books, art, haircuts…it’s all been done before.

    My photography:

    • OsFa Urbex

      There is a certain type of urbexers out there who take pride in tearing a place appart. Just to make sure nobody takes (or can take) the same pictures as they did (but they also love staging)

  • Eldrad

    2011 photos on my website, it was in a better state ! http://www.underground-worlds.com/le-manoir-au-piano/
    So sad !

    • womppp

      I’ve always enjoyed visiting your site. Keep it up. Great work!

  • Lusker

    Maybe its just because there is more focus on locations nowadays ….It allways been like this with locations

  • rob

    why do all urbexers think they have do produce hdr crap?

  • ModernLife

    Meh. Abandoned buildings evolve. Sometimes they get smashed up more. Sometimes they are found in “just the right level of smashed up”. How do you think they get in that state? Did that pristine piano collapse on its own? Probably not. Get over yourself.

  • abs1

    Every wannabe urbex hipster and their mom is doing it now. Cause it’s so hot right now.