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.”

urbex in vast abandoned building in Guangdong China

Guangdong China, Image Evan Chang and Yoel Taomas ©

urban exploration photography

Beneath the City of Kyiv Ukraine

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.”

Urbex 'Urban Exploration' Abandoned Chinese Theme Park

Guangdong China

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’.

ruin porn urban exploration china

Office in an abandoned Factory Hubei, China

ruin porn captured by an urbexer

Abandonment Guangdong China

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.

Notre Dame small detail on facade pre fire 2019

detail of gargoyles on side of Notre Dame pre 2019 fire

Notre-Dame de Paris pre 2019 fire

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.

urbex inside huge damaged dome

Buzludzha Monument, Bulgaria

urbexers exploration photo

Cooling Tower, Charleroi

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 ©

Cityscape bathed in pink light urbexer

Guangdong China

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Hidden Cities: Moscow by Zupagrafika is an instant film inspired photo-box featuring architecture snapshots to unveil. Contains 8 interactive cards that resemble Polaroid 55 films – peel the negative apart and reveal the hidden city. Includes a foreword on Moscow post-war modernist estates. Images by Alexander Veryovkin.

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