I miss the days when I had to explain the words, “urban exploration.”
Before jumping in, I just summarized my anger to a friend: It’s not that I’m upset at urban explorers for talking to the media. What makes me upset is that the increase in media attention, means an increase in security. What it doesn’t mean is an increase in urban explorers, or an increase in meeting other genuinely interested explorers like me. All this does is make it all just a bit harder than it is already.
Over the past few years, urban exploration has become increasingly popular. It’s infuriating. Do you know how many articles now discuss urban exploration? Do you know how many times I’ve been doing final research for a location, only to have some media outlet cover the location that morning and push the content out to the masses? Yeah, that kind of screws things up. I know what you are thinking… I write a god damn blog about these places, but don’t want anyone to know? No. I’m sharing what I experience so that others can experience the same adventure in a hands-off way. I want people to know. But I want the RIGHT people to know.
Contrary to popular belief, I do not do it for the rush of doing something illegal. I do not do it for the scare factor. I do not do it for attention. And I certainly do not do it to get a good fucking picture. If I can score one? Awesome. If I’m too busy hanging on? Oh well. It isn’t a competition… which is exactly how it is positioned in NY Magazine’s article, “The Outlaw Instagrammers of New York City.” I don’t care if people love the photos I take. I just care that I may have shown someone something that they didn’t realize they would love. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s about sharing the experience, not building an online following and an online reputation.
Now, do I dislike these super popular urban explorers? Not at all. Hell, I’d give anything to make them my friends – to go exploring together. The pictures they take are absolutely amazing. But do I want my name next to theirs in the article about urbex popularity? Hell no. Do I think it’s a good idea for them to share with publishers their next target? Come on now, wake up.
Just yesterday Thrillist published an article called, “10 Things You Need to Know About Urban Exploring.” #1: Fantastic! Helicopters are bad. Yes, yes they are. Thanks so much for drawing EVEN MORE attention. Why are we making urban exploring mainstream? Or maybe I’m just too much of a noob to realize that this happened long ago? If you look at the urban explorers mentioned in these articles, you will see that I’m pretty much just starting with my baby steps. I WANT to visit the places they have been and EXPERIENCE these locations first hand. Teach me your ways!
Here’s the thing: thus far, I’ve only discovered other explorers after seeing something I’d like to explore, research, and stumbling upon their work. Do I want to compete with them? Not in the slightest… but join them somehow? Of course. Ideally I’d like to meet other explorers like me while hitting a location (like many of these articles mention). It has happened to me a few times. I want to make partners, but not by being a fan girl.
After reading the article, I had to ask myself something. One of the major points in the article was not to share the “how-tos” of these locations. Am I guilty of this? Thinking back, I do share a general description of where I am. Why? Because why not? You ask me, “oh wow – where is that?” I’d like to say, “oh, an old theater in Brooklyn” and not, “sorry, I can’t tell you that.” Does this count? I’m going to go with no, considering the lack of details, but who knows. If its public, share the location. Let others experience the joy if they so desire. If its private, don’t. Mentioning the city you are in isn’t breaking any unspoken rule. Maybe I should stop saying the city, so that I could be part of the cool, mysterious club. Ridiculous.
So… I explore because I have a genuine interest in stepping foot in a rarely touched area. I explore because it makes me feel like history can whisper its secrets, and I can hold them inside me while the rest of the world moves on. But with all this attention, will it really be possible to continue?