Urban Exploration, commonly referred to as UrbEx, is a form of street photography that has grown great popularity over the past decade. Artists venturing out into urban areas and abandoned structures to capture what marks humans leave on this great planet. UrbEx is not a style I have delved into but I do greatly admire it on social media as many of my friends were avid street photographers. A few weeks ago I was granted the opportunity to go out and give UrbEx a try and I could not pass it up.
I first learned the name Herb Allen through the car scene a few years ago as he was an EvoX owner and a superb photographer. Fast forward a couple years and a few conversations on Facebook and I was invited by Herb to come up and hang out for a couple days in New Jersey. So I made my nearly four hour trek up to Jersey for a time I figured would be filled with deep conversations on photography, business, and cars. The usual. Well pretty much as soon as I got there Herb filled me in on some possible exploring going on in New York, not too far from his house. Once we had plans set and our mutual friend Anthony Purcell arrived we grabbed our gear and took off for NY.
We did not have a ton of info on the location we were going to be exploring but we did know it was once a women's prison that was then a homeless shelter that was abandoned over 10 years ago. We met up with the two scouties Steve Gindler and Matt Smith outside the gates as we made our way onto the property. In my mind before seeing the prison I pictured a Eastern State Penitentiary-esque building we would be entering. Instead it was a compound, one large multistory building placed on the right shrouded in graffiti and overgrown weeds. to the left, two white wood buildings that reminded me of an old school house. All of this was shadowed by a large white water tower that stood front and center that read in spray paint "And in that moment I swear we were infinite".
As we made our way into the large building I could not help but feel eerie wondering what could be lurking in there with us. Luckily no person, animal, demon, alien, or moth man allowed us to be on that nights 6 o'clock news. The jail had a few cells on the upper floors but was mainly large rooms used for bunking and mess halls. You could easily get lost in the building as it was like every floor looked exactly the same. Several times I think we confused ourselves thinking we were on the same floor though we were not. After taking in all the jail had to offer we checked out the two smaller school house like buildings. Once entering you could definitely notice these were the oldest of all the buildings. The floors were starting to cave in and decay. Paint was simply falling from the pillars, walls, and ceilings. What seemed like what was once a beautiful wood front porch now decayed and fallen victim to ivy.
We lurked around in amazement for a few hours, seeing what we could find, sharing stories, and capturing a few photos here and there before we made our ways back to the cars. My first UrbEx experience left an impression on me that will never be forgotten. The thrill of being somewhere you really shouldn't be, the wonder of what stories lied in the graffiti layered walls you walked along, and to see how nature was reclaiming its area that was once taken by human structures. I now could really see what draws people to UrbEx now. I'm hoping to add more exploring to my future. To turning internet friends into reality friends, and to new experiences I say cheers.
Follow these great artists on instagram.
Herb Allen ( @herb.allen )
Anthony Purcell ( @halcyonphoto )
Steve Gindler ( @cvatik )