Abandoned Photography, Why do I do it?
#Urbex; you might have seen it written down some place or heard someone talk about urbex. So what does it mean? Urbex is short for Urban Exploration, meaning the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment. This is what I love doing on a weekly basis, and I have always had a passion for it for as long as I can remember. Every abandoned place I come across has its own story to it, whether it is one that is known or not known to the public, I love finding out what it is. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words, and when it comes to abandoned places, that could not be more true.
My first big #urbex exploration was to the Packard Plant in Detroit, Mi. With an astonishing 3,500,000 square foot of concrete and steel, this complex designed by Albert Kahn, sits just off I-94 and East Grand Blvd. It opened its doors in 1903 and at the time was considered to be well ahead of all other automobile facilities. Thousands of Packard vehicles rolled off the line here and onto the streets of Detroit. Officially the facility closed in 1958, although other businesses set up shop in the buildings until they themselves had to vacate in the late 1990's. Currently the Packard plant is under restoration and will be for quite some time.
(Top 3 pictures, courtesy of DetroitUrbex.com) Bottom 3 Pictures (Ryan Jakubowski)
This right here is why I venture into the unknown of abandoned places; so I can tell the story of their past! So many places in Detroit and really, all over the world, have been left to rot away by mother nature and time. Before they are completely gone, I want to be able to inform people about what these places were, and the impact it had, not only on society back then, but also how it effects us today. The Packard plant brought many jobs to the city of Detroit and i'm sure if you ask your family you might find someone who either worked there or knew someone else who did.
Another reason I explore these places is for the rush of it! Just like someone who jumps out of a plane and feels their stomach sink inside them, but then is overcome with absolute joy once they have hit the ground (safely) lol, is pretty much what happens to me. Sometimes when I go out and explore these places, it is a planned trip. I will look at the area before hand, view satellite images, and videos of what I will experience once I get into the particular place so I know where to head once there. Some places I have not gone into all the way due to the environment or other factors. There has been plenty of times however I have found a place out of the blue and started exploring. Dangerous? Yes absolutely, and I DO NOT encourage anyone to do this, unless you know the risks and consequences of doing so.
There is something about the unknown though, getting out of my car and looking at a massive structure in front of me with broken windows and graffiti all over it. It's a canvas for other artists to display their work, and now its time to display my own. Camera in hand, I walk around the side of the building where a small opening is. Its dark, cold, smells funny, but still peeks my interest to see what is behind the opening. As I walk in, the air is still and musty smelling. Looking to my right I see a huge pile of debris, chairs, clothes, parts of the ceiling, desks, and even the food and beer bottles from other explorers and people there before me. As I move further into the building the light from outside shines through, it is coming in from a crumbled wall and illuminates a massive open area with tons of concrete pillars holding up the floors above. Graffiti is marked all over them, it looks like I just stepped into an art gallery and there are hundreds of different pieces to look at, from various artist. As I start to take pictures, I can just imagine what it looked like back in its "hay-day", the colors of the walls, what was sitting on the desks as people did their work, and the multiple everyday activities that took place over the years. Fisher Body 21 Plant in Detroit at the corner of I-94 and I-75 in Detroit is one place that gave me this experience, and still does to this day. It is a place I continue to visit, and I seem to always find something new to capture when i'm there.
One place that always had my attention stands as the most iconic building in the Detroit area. Michigan Central Station. Opening its doors on January 4th 1914, it was the main stop to catch an Amtrak train to multiple locations all over Michigan and other states. Thousands of people left and greeted their families until 1988 when Amtrak ceased. The great thing about MCS was that the building was bought by Ford Motor Company and is now being restored! This gave me the opportunity on June 22nd, 2018 to go inside and get a tour of one of the most amazing structures ever, without having to sneak in through a side door. The first day the building was open to the public I was there. Hundreds of people gathered outside the doors, just beyond the white fabric covered gate and stood in line to get there chance to see it for themselves. I checked in at the media booth and awaited the blue wristband that allowed me to enter through the side gate and into the building I had wanted to explore for so many years! I was like a kid in a candy shop, trying to control my excited feeling inside. As the gate opened for me to pass through, I saw some of the most amazing architecture i had ever witnessed. Sure, I had taken pictures of Michigan Central from behind the gate prior to this day, but being that close to it was a completely different feeling!
As I made my way through the front doors, I felt a cold draft come over me. The ceilings soared above with quotes and inspirational messages projected onto it. The size of the main lobby I was standing in was amazing! Multiple displays hung all around showing what Michigan Central Station looked like in the past and what the plans were for the future of this majestic building. As I made my way around the area of the main floor, I came across an old clock that had been attached to the outside of the building off to the right. It was stolen years ago, and after hearing that Ford was going to be restoring the train station, it found its way back home and was proudly displayed for all to see.
After admiring the lobby area, I made my way toward the back of the building, there is were the multiple areas were to heard to the trains, and wow was it amazing! The graffiti covered the walls, the bricks were all sorts of colors and the metal that hung over our heads was a work of art all itself. It shaped the back lobby area where tons of glass once covered to protect from the elements. I had always wanted to see this in person, and i was finally inside! The architecture was unbelievable, the attention to detail of the pillars and walls felt like I went back in time and was standing there when people rushed to catch their train.
I had the awesome opportunity to go up to the 13th floor and overlook the Detroit skyline and all the beauty this place had to offer. I remembered standing outside thinking, I wonder what it looks like from the top? And i was finally there. Used mainly for storage the huge open concept shinned in the sunlight through all the windows. Looking down you could see hundreds of people gathered in line, waiting to get in and see it all for themselves. I did not want to leave the top floor, I could have stayed up there forever! The view was incredible and so was the set of stairs that led to the roof too. Unfortunately I would not get access to the roof, but it was still worth every minute being there.
In January, 2019 held a Michigan Winter Festival at the train station, projecting multiple images, telling the history of the building. The night was absolutely freezing, in the single digits, but I could not pass up going to see the Detroit Central Station come alive thanks to multiple massive projectors. I stood right in front of them as the building opened before our eyes in tons of eye popping colors and some of the coolest graphics I had ever seen. With my hands almost numb I managed to record and take pictures of the event that unfolded there. You can see the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XSeonJQfDo
This brings me to my last point on why I urban explore abandoned places, It's just plain FUN! When you do get the rare chance to get a true glimpse of history and a lesson on what your seeing, its so fun! Seeing hundreds of other people share your interest with you and become awe-struck about what they are seeing is such a great feeling. So if you get the chance to do one of these public events that involve you in the history of an abandoned place, try to go to it! The stuff you will learn and the people you will meet, make it an incredible experience. If your ever looking for someone to go with on your abandoned adventure, let me know! I am always down. Check out more pictures I have taken of abandoned buildings here:
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