Friday, December 30, 2011

The Horror of Urban Exploration

Most of you know that I have a pretty dangerous hobby. Wait. No... you don't know. I am a photographer. One of my favorite types of photography is Urban Exploration. There is a kind of sad beauty to be had in Urban Decay.

For those of you who don't know, Urban Exploration is exactly what it sounds like. You go into a place that is abandoned and explore.

1) I know, this is illegal. It is technically trespassing and can get you in trouble with the law.

2) This is dangerous for two reasons. a) abandoned buildings tend to be in bad areas of town. ("But, Kriss, why don't you find some places out in the country to photograph?" Wellllll, then I would be engaged in Rural Exploration, and the only rural land around here is swamp.) The last two places I went to were pretty bad. One was at the corner of stab whitey and rape boulevard - the other was at the corner of the cops don't come down here and murder lane. b) Because these buildings are not cared for. You would be surprised at how quickly nature can destroy a thing.

In spite of the danger, I find the results to be infinitely satisfying. (My urban exploration gallery can be seen here).

At the Louisiana Tech College (at the corner of Piety and Higgins in New Orleans, LA - images from the this are marked New Orleans Urban Ex 01.xx) I found myself in a very frightening situation. I entered a garage style bay door and was ecstatic to see a pile of old tires (I know, old tires - WHEE!!!) and a beautiful piece of graffiti. It took me a few minutes to set up the shot and get it metered, framed and focused. I took the picture and was happy with the result.

Then I turned around to take a picture of the tires. (I know, right, TIRES!) and came face to face with CUJO!  Actually, it was a sweet pit bull, but I turned around and before I could eve register that the dog was there, she had barked at me. (DEMON DOG BARK!) Needless to say. This scared the ever-loving (as Balki Bartokomous would say) baba sticky out of me. It turns out that I scared the dog a great deal and she ran away with her hackles up. I got my shot after I was able to breathe again. (That's right MOFO - TIRES!). I got the shot and the dog ran away, but it could have been much worse. 

That's right MOFO -TIRES!
Today, on my latest excursion I had a couple experiences that should drive the danger part home. 1) I fell (partially) through a set of rotted stairs. LUCKILY, I was on the first floor, and only about 2 steps up. It could have been a LOT worse. (a cartoonist's rendering of my fall) I got off light and have been shaking my finger at myself for a few hours. 

This door right here!
That's where I came in !
The second experience I could not have written better in one of my scripts. There I was. I had just entered the first floor through this door. I took my shot and that is when I heard it. There was a "Shuffle...thump" off in the distance. Now, as is my tendency towards urban courtesy I called out "Hello? I'm just a photographer. I'm not going to mess with anyone - just gonna take my photos and leave!" 

The body in the darkness said "..." The dude was eloquent after all. 

I set up my next shot. Set my ISO, focused and then "Thump... Shuffle... Shuffle... Thump." It sounded for all the world like Dr. Frankenstein's assistant Igor was shuffling towards me in the dark. Heavy, worn shoes shuffling in the dirt. 

So I said it again. "I'm just taking my photos and I'll be going."

"Shuffle... thump..." It was closer this time. Then it got faster... and closer. "Shuffle thump Shuffle thump Shuffle thump Shuffle thump Shuffle thump Shuffle thump Shuffle thump."


It stopped. I stood there in the dark... the only things I could hear was the beat of my own heart and the flow of blood in my veins. 

I took a step back and there was a raspy, whining sound and something grabbed my back pack (I have a backpack camera bag that I take with me at all times, you see)... I did the most manly thing I could manage at that moment. I SCREAMED LIKE A LITTLE GIRL!

It turns out I had just brushed up against a rusted pipe that was hanging from the ceiling and it had snagged my backpack. While this is embarrassing, I have to say, it was a very relieving thing because I was picturing the terminator, an alien or predator or Rapy McKill-the-White-Guy there in the darkness with me.

As my scream echoed off the walls, it started again... Shufflethump. My heart was pounding, my palms were sweating, my bladder was full to bursting... ShufflethumpShufflethumpShufflethumpShufflethump... I said "dude!"


One second.



Then a black tom cat came tearing out of the shadows, ran past me and out a broken window. Shuffle Shuffle Shuffle. 

No more thump. What the fuck??? Where did he leave his shoes? Seriously?

I finished my photo shoot and left and never found a shoe. 

All of this is to say that I have, Honestly, been lucky. Hopefully, I will continue to be because I am addicted to the beauty one can find in decay...

But where the hell is that shoe!?!

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