Urbex: The Accidental Obsession of Modern Architecture Lovers
While it’s likely you’ve never heard of Urbex before, if you find yourself reading this, there’s a good chance the word applies to you.
In the words of Evan Chang, an Urbex photographer from Guangzhou in Canton China, it’s about, “capturing huge, lonely architectural structures with my camera. Trying to find the traces of human life at the same time as grappling with the history of their construction.”
The lure of Urban Exploration Photography, Evan explains, is that, “Each visit to a building is hugely meaningful, altering the facts on the ground and forging the connection between people and architecture. The photos I take are a way of looking at the present and looking at the past.”
While Urbex can function simply as pointing and shooting a built structure it has mutated over its existence into something darker. For Urbex fans the Venn-diagram of ruin and decay with history and anthropology is fascinating. Detroit’s deterioration was catapulted into the public sphere when photographers from around the world descended on the city and documented the degeneration. Hence, it’s nickname from the media, ‘ruin porn’.
We got a glimpse of this just this week as Notre-Dame burst into flames. Suddenly the fragility of landmark architecture, even that protected by both church and state, became abundantly clear.
So where does the catastrophe leave the conversation about urbex? Does a building have to be abandoned to be an appropriate subject? What about somewhere highly distressed but for a limited period of time? We’ve all been fascinated by the photographs of the damage to the interior of Notre-Dame and perhaps that gave us all a sense of the fascination of Urban Exploring? Notre-Dame doesn’t fall within the Urbex canon, it’s not been abandoned, its users and visitors are known and so there’s none of the fascination of imaging and trying to picture who inhabited it, who used an abandoned building.
Photographers are always looking at ways to capture the spirit of a design something different, next layer down, what happened at Notre-Dame proved that one shouldn’t be so casual about the longevity of any building including the incredibly well known and taken for granted. Visit Evan on Instagram www.instagram.com/yifangchang_no_menu/
All images copyright of Yifang Chang 张一方 ©