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News & Insight

Place-Hacking for Incredible Photos: Evade Security & Cross Lines

By Kishore Sawh on December 24th 2013

Recently, I wrote about the need we as photographers have to take risks. I argued that it’s part of our make-up as humans, and that if our ancestors had been too cautious to leave the comfort of their caves to brave the world outside, we’d all still be there now. There is a thought that the consistent surge in popularity of extreme sports, like skydiving, is really a result of man reacting to the restrictive, bubble-wrapped, safety-obsessed society that we are in. One where we’ve seen almost everything, and little is new.

It’s inherent in man to seek stimulation. We don’t do extreme sports or drive fast because we are in a rush, it’s because we seek one. We crave the high of a dopamine hit, and the good feelings of an endorphin flood because via those chemicals of arrousal we feel alive again. And the only way to break into this inner pharmacy is by taking a risk. Bradley Garrett seems to answer this call photographically, anywhere he is, safety and legality be damned! Garrett’s book, ‘Explore-Everything: Place Hacking The City’ is a calling to us all.


It’s harder to find these novel experiences when it seems every dark corner of the planet has been found and documented. Yet Garrett suggests that the very cities we live in are the places that actually need rediscovering. He goes to the edge of reason to photograph, and beyond; To the city limits, and past, to show us parts of cities we don’t ever get to see; The forgotten parts, and the places our law enforcement say is no place of ours to see.


[REWIND: ‘Canon Master’ Adventure Photographer Shoots Without Bounds]

Photography is like fishing though, it’s best where the fewest go. Garrett goes there. Our cities and systems are built to look precise and like a well oiled machine when we stay within the boundaries. But when you see it from Garrett’s view, just outside and between the lines, it’s like looking at the underside of a tapestry; a mess, a thrill, mixed with decay and beauty, and just about the most interesting views you’ve ever seen.


Plotting expeditions from London, Paris, Berlin, Detroit, Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Bradley L. Garrett has evaded urban security in order to experience the city in ways beyond the boundaries of conventional life. He calls it ‘place hacking’: the recoding of closed, secret, hidden and forgotten urban space to make them realms of opportunity.

I’m in no way suggesting you decide to rebel and start breaking laws in the name of better views and better photos, but if you do it already or plan to, I wouldn’t say no to seeing what you’ve seen via a photo. I’m writing this from Miami and it’s a sort of new city, and I feel I’ve seen most of it. I feel sort of compelled now to step outside the paradigm and seek new angles, new places, and new faces. Look for me on the far side of the train tracks. If Garrett’s work has said anything to me it’s that life without risk is like a lion’s dinner….fruitless.





Be sure to check out more of Garrett’s work here, on his blog, on twitter, and look for his book to contain so much more of this brilliant series of photos.

All photographs by Bradley Garrett 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.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ben

    Oh don’t get me wrong. The pics are great and the locations are unreal. There’s no taking away from that and not all Urbex adventures will get you arrested. I’ve rolled the dice many times and have only received a ticket once.

    There’s ample sites around if people want to find out more and see awesome photography. Just to name a few.

    But yeah, Garrett is a dirt bag that should receive no recognition. And yeah of course it’s only personal opinion.

    Any who…. hit those sites and see some urbex goodness :-)

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  2. Ben

    And here is what you DON’T know about Bradley Garrett.

    A very long story short is that his “place hacking” which the rest of us just call urbex has resulted in him getting nearly every single one of his exploring partners arrested and the majority of places they have shot shut down.

    Brad wrote a thesis on his adventures detailing things that should never have been detailed about how these feats were achieved and the details on who participated in these trips with him.

    Brad Garrett should by no means be used as an example of something anyone should do and should not be put on any kind of pedestal unless you’re referring to how scummy some people are and an example of how NOT to conduct yourself.

    This isn’t a bias reply nor is it a rant. It’s just simply fact.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Ben, hi there! Thanks for stopping by and dropping your opinion. I take it you know Garrett well given what you’ve detailed and how you’ve spoken. I sadly, have not the experience with him to remark in the manner in which you have. I am familiar with Urbex though, and I agree with you somewhat that the actions mentioned in the article are in no way somethings I would recommend anyone do. Something i made a point to address in the text. It was an individuals prerogative and mine to admire. I hope you have a great year’s end! Cheers

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  3. Ed King

    Amazing and adventurous !! Excellent article, although I haven’t explored to this extreme I appreciate the work very much and thanks for sharing the links too

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Thanks for stopping by Ed. I’m glad you liked the article. I don’t think many people have explored to these extremes, probably for good reason. You probably don’t need to in order to get some stunning shots. There are a lot of abandoned areas for this sort of thing to start with. I would love to go to Detroit and do a photo series, actually.
      Nice work by the way, you do HDR quite well. I love your photo ‘old salt.’ It’s peaceful and well executed. You should check out our HDR Products, you may find useful. Also since your’e into landscapes and HDR check out this other article where I featured Photographer Daniel Cheo – hold on, I remember you saw that one before and commented! Thanks for keeping up and coming back. Cheers Ed!

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