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Why Do We Like History?

Do you have something you tell people when they ask you why you explore the old places? I can say a few words about history, a love for the old workmanship, etc. But, there is more to it. Things I don’t put into words because they make me seem a sad and lonely person. I don’t feel that way about myself. But, if my photographs are about preserving the past and feelings of things lost, fading and forgotten… I think that says something about me. It makes me seem needy, vulnerable. So, I don’t have an answer for the question of why I explore, other than touching the surface about liking history.

The email I’ve cut and pasted below was from 2011. I thought it would be easy to send a reply back, but I’ve never managed to answer the question without feeling vulnerable or lacking sincerity. I could have sent a fluff answer. But, I don’t want to. Some day there will be nothing left of me but what I did, wrote or photographed. None of those things are permanent. My existence will slip through history, like most people. The least I can do is put integrity and honesty into the very little remnants there will be.

I think about this still. The question I thought would be simple to answer, but isn’t.

Thanks for sending the link. Your photos look wonderful. You’ve definitely got a better eye through the lens than I.

I’ve spoken to a couple of environmental historians and the message seems to be the same. For your collection to be of use to a historian for research purposes, it would need extensive metadata about exactly where and when the photos were taken. Preferably following a standard metadata convension used by professional archivists (eg, Dublin Core http://dublincore.org/).

The historians also believed that your collection is much more likely to be of interest to someone for research purposes in 30 or 40 years and that perhaps then the interest would be in you as a photographer interested in old buildings, as opposed to the contents of the photos themselves.

Having said that, the photos are great and if you’d like to write a few paragraphs about why you’ve decided to take them and why you think it’s important to preserve these types of buildings on film, we’d be happy to share the story and a link to your photos on our news feed. Our readers tend to have a keen interest in the past and how we can understand the past. Your knowledge of photography and preserving would certainly be worth understanding further.

Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Adam Crymble

Know the Earth Beneath Your Feet with an App

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Flyover Country is a National Science Foundation funded offline mobile app for geoscience outreach and data discovery. “The app analyzes a given flight path and caches relevant map data and points of interest (POI), and displays these data during the flight, without in flight Wi-Fi,” describes its website. It “exposes interactive geologic maps from Macrostrat.org, fossil localities from Neotomadb.org and Paleobiodb.org, core sample localities from LacCore.org, Wikipedia articles, offline base maps, and the user’s current GPS determined location, altitude, speed, and heading.”

Source: A New App that Tells You Everything About the Earth Below You  | GOOD

Really nice for urban explorers. You could get at least some history of the area you are photographing. In time the software/ app could include information from local history (from libraries and historical societies) and even urban exploration photos taken from ruins, tunnels and rooftops.

Day Time Adventures

Day time adventures are my personal favorite because I can take pictures and actually see the building in natural lighting.  Although the buildings are losing their old looks, they’re gaining new characteristics such as vines and erosion that give them a unique, beautiful look.  There’s a rich history to be accounted for once you really take a look at them.  Each place has a story to tell.

Source: Your Guide to Urban Exploration | EVERYTHING EXCLUSIVE MAGAZINE

I prefer daytime adventures too. I like to see everything and I’m not looking around hoping to scare myself with ghosts.

Would you Walk Through these Gates at Night?

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Great photo of ellaborate gates from somewhere. Posted to a Halloween group on Facebook. The photo came up in my Facebook feed from a friend. This was my comment:

I explore and photograph abandoned houses. You can see a lot more in the daylight. Seems a shame to go at night just to freak yourself out about ghosts.

Urban Explorer or Thrill Seeker?

Are you an urban explorer or a thrill seeker? I think it comes down to the camera you use and why you take photographs.

Are your photos more about proving you were there or getting a better look at what you’ve seen?

I pick my camera for the zoom up feature. I want to get a closer view of things I can’t access (due to distance, obstacles, ethics, etc.). I’m not hanging, one-armed, from a crane taking photos of my feet in mid-air. I like a camera which picks up colours, has a sharp focus and can handle being out in the rain on occasion. But, zoom comes first.

Why did you pick your camera? Does the camera really matter as long as it’s easy to carry and pull out for a quick photo?

Another way to tell if you’re an explorer is how you handle questions about what you’re doing.

If someone approaches you at the location do you run away or have a conversation with them? Even the police and security will chat and often leave you alone if you explain you’re just taking photographs and being careful not to cause damage or get hurt. If you hide and run away – there’s a reason for that. Either you want the thrill of escaping “the law” or you were there for the thrill and don’t want to get caught vandalizing or doing something else you shouldn’t have been doing.

Someone asked me why I explore and I’ve never found a good, single, solid reason. But, I know I don’t explore for the thrill. The element of danger, knowing I’m on private property, those are the things I don’t like about exploring. Those are the things which keep me from getting closer when I’d like to see more of a place.

For me the thrill is finding the old place, looking at the weathered buildings, the details in stonework, and trying to show what I’m feeling in a photograph. I don’t want to prove I was there but I do want to share what I have seen. I want to preserve it so others can see the places as I found them.

Start Noticing Layers in the Urban Environment

I may be weird but I especially like the little details like painted over numbers and such. Something rusty draws me just as much as something shiny.

We recently did a couple of Thomasson exercises in my class (which focuses on the politics of ‘ruin porn’ and urban exploration), and it was an excellent way to help my students, who are mostly freshman, get to know their campus and start noticing the changes and layers in the urban environment around them. In this post, I’ll be sharing what we discovered and what I learned about using Thomassons as a teaching tool.

Source: Thomassons: Indiana University Edition | Rust Belt Anthro