Urban Exploration (Urbex) photography combines danger and excitement, adventure and discovery. It is all about photographing so called “lost places,” places that have been abandoned by humans and stand eerily silent.
The Other Side is an Urbex photographer from Belgium that we have reported about in the past when he was threatened with one year in jail and a 15.000€ fine. He’s granted us an exclusive interview and shares with us some stories from his Urbex adventures.
How did you get started in photography?
About 10 years ago, I bought my first digital camera. I wanted to take some beautiful holiday pictures when I was traveling to Spain and I was sure I could do that with that camera (Canon 350D). I think I saw all of Spain though my camera. Settings on full automatic, of course. What a disappointment when I got home.
So, I started learning and after a while, I got better equipment and more experience. About 5 years ago, I started photographing abandoned places. At first, it was very innocent, a local factory or house.. After a while it got more serious, I started traveling all over Europe and taking a lot more risks for that one great photo.
A few years ago, I also started working for companies as a freelance photographer. For my latest assignment, I had to travel to Africa for documenting an energy project in Togo. Dreams came true for me. Very soon, I’ll start selling prints, and I’m working on my first book. All abandoned pictures are taken using HDR , a technique I only use for this kind of photography.
[PRODUCT HIGHLIGHT: HDR PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP]
What were the craziest things that happened to you while taking photos in ‘Lost Places?’
Lots of stories to tell. I’ve met junkies, homeless people, mad owners, a lot of police and security, dogs or other animals. At one industrial site, we wanted to take a few pictures, we knew it would be difficult to get in. We got in through the roof and got out again without any troubles. We were happy, we had our pictures and it was much more easy than expected. But on our way out, we got spotted by a group of about 10 people.
They started yelling and then we noticed they were skinheads. Then I heard things like ‘Heil Hitler’ and ‘fascist.’ They looked very aggressive and they started running towards us. I can honestly say that I have never run so fast. We were lucky, there was a way out very close to our car. I’ve never seen any pictures of that place by another Urbexer. The machine we photographed looks like some sort of UFO. You’ll understand why we call that one “The Nazi UFO”
How do you find those unique places all around the world?
Research and networking! You can find a lot of places by simply following the news, reading articles or just looking out for them when driving your car. But most importantly, you need to have some good and trustworthy contacts in every country.
They will help you when you visit their country and you’ll do the same for them. Trust is important, you don’t want to give [just] anyone these locations. So it may take a while before you get a small list with persons you can trust. Too much theft and vandalism is one of the reasons doing this kind of photography is getting much harder.
Are there any photographers that have inspired you along the way?
In general my absolute number 1 photographer is Steve McCurry. I really really love his work. If I had to choose someone who inspired me for photographing abandoned places, I can think of no one better than Yannick Wilrycx. He’s a very good friend of mine, and has been doing this for more than 10 years. I could not have done it without his help.
What gear do you use to capture your images?
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Canon 5D Mark II backup
- Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L
- Canon 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye
- Canon 70 – 200mm f/2.8L
- Canon 24-105mm f/4.0L
- Canon 85mm f/1.2 L
The lens that I use the most often for my Urbex work is the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L.
Thank you very much to The Other Side for this interview!
What do you think about Urbex Photography? Would you take the risk to capture images like these?
Credit: All photographs by The Other Side are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.