Beauty In Decay Book – Urbex / Urban Exploring

I picked this book up in Rough Trade a couple of weeks back and it’s become somewhat of an obsession of late. I’m not really that in to art books at all, but The Beauty In Decay is really something special, and has shed some light on a scene that’s held on to it’s anonymity and exclusiveness despite some increased exposure.

Shot almost entirely on HDR the collection is composed of shots from around the world, taken by urban explorers. Although there are much wider definitions, my understanding of urban exploration (or urbex) is focused around the discovery of forgotten or abandoned buildings. These include asylums, military sites, industrial sites, underground (eg catacombs) among the targeted places.

In fact there’s a passage from the book that explains some of the ethics behind it.

via Beauty In Decay

What’s the Story with Urban Exploration?

It’s easy to describe what an Urban Explorer does; they infiltrate into abandoned buildings and industrial sites and explore them, often taking photographs along the way. They don’t steal, vandalise or even leave graffiti behind them. In fact their code of honour is reminiscent of the rambler’s way: Take only pictures, leave only footprints. It is, on the other hand, not so easy to describe the whys and wherefores.

Think back to your childhood for a moment and it all begins to make sense. Do you remember the terrifying yet seductive draw of the archetypal haunted house? Every neighbourhood and every childhood has one. At the very point we cross the border from childhood into adolescence we cross real physical borders too. It’s the moment in our lives when we test the boundaries. We finally pluck up the courage to break into the haunted house and take a look around. You can probably remember your own experiences of this. And there will be at least one.

The Urban Explorer feels that we, in the comfortable and over-protected `first world’ are living in an enforced and extended state of childhood. They have remembered that they are capable of having unmediated experiences of reality and they welcome the fear that may (or may not) come with those experiences. The fear itself is the gateway to go through. It’s the gateway that leads for many to `wonderland’. This is the world through the looking glass that in some dark corner of every soul, we are all looking for.

The strange thing then is not that Urban Explorers exist; it’s that the rest of us have forgotten that we are Urban Explorers too.

Hardback, beautifully printed and 192 pages of inspirational work from 49 of the culture’s finest shooters. No joke when I say that it’ll have you looking at the world in a different way.

One of the Urbex communities online hang-outs is Talk Urbex, who had an interview with Jeremy Gibbs aka Mr Romany WG, who was the author / urbex photogorapher behind the project. You can read the full thing on the link below.