Thursday, April 1, 2010

Accidental Urbex

As long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated with ruins. Medieval castle ruins, crumbling chateaux, or ivy-buried cemeteries seem to call out to me to enter and explore. My main purpose for the exploration was always photographic—to capture the phases of decay. Why? Because decay and decomposition are beautiful. No, I do not wear all black clothing and guyliner. I just happen to think that the aesthetics of ruin is visually and viscerally appealing. Perhaps it’s a statement on our impermanence—and of that which we design and build. Eventually, the Earth takes it all back.

A group of us in Berlin get together in a photography ‘club’ of sorts and explore. We have hit various small German towns and villages as well as miscellaneous Berlin sites and have taken thousands of pics. I’ve noticed that there are those of us who tend to favor the more dilapidated industrial, military and medical sites that have come across our field of view: an abandoned sanatorium in the countryside, a former Cold War listening post or a disused airfield. While we were planning our next outing into a former-Soviet-something-or-other, a new voice chimed in on the bulletin board, one who claimed to be into photography and Urbex. I had to look that one up. An urban explorer is one who enters, creeps, crawls and explores all that is unseen to the average human eye. Many of them take pictures and many of them just like to crawl around in the muck. I am of the former group, as crawling in muck is impractical for a man of my bulk. Some carry bags of spelunking gear and galoshes; I’m often seen in sandals and a Hawaiian shirt with a camera around my neck. Call me the Urban Tourist.
On all of our trips I am the last guy out. I probably slow the group down with my need to explore every corner of the places we conquer. Most often I am found taking pics of peeling paint or rusty metal objects. I am simply fascinated by decay in extreme close up. I fear I may have to purchase a macro lens if this keeps up. On each trip, either shouts from the group urging me to keep up--or my fear of being left behind in a village with no bus service--will eventually pry me from the crumbling decay of the past and back to the quiet bustle of the streets of Berlin.

photos by Dunkin' Berliner


  1. Ooh, sounds intriguing! I can't wait to see some of those photos on your website! They might make great blog headers (LOL).

  2. Happy to have been an inspiration.
    Anytime you want, I'm ready for a visit to that lovely "abandoned sanatorium in the countryside".

  3. Thanks for the comment. I'll keep you posted on my Urbex planning.