RetroMacCast

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Urban Exploration - Another Hobby I'm Passionate About

I love Macs. You love Macs. Everyone here at the RMC website loves Macs as a hobby.

One of my other favorite hobbies is Urban Exploration... or Urbex for short. If you aren't familiar with the activity it can best be described as such. The infiltration of abandoned buildings.

In early 2007 when RMC was still ironing the kinks of producing a high quality podcast I was living in Marburg an der Lahn, about an hour north of Frankfurt, Germany. In between Frankfurt and Marburg was a small town called Butzbach. I instantly recognized the name because my father had been stationed there as a US soldier in the earlier 1980's. When the train pulled into the station I noticed a factory across the railroad tracks. It was the Hessia Fabrik and it looked abandoned. Near the end of my studies I lacked funding for entertainment so I thought, what the hell, I'll risk getting into the factory and any consequences that go with it.


It was a sprawling facility that took the whole afternoon to explore. When I finished my camera was full of dramatic photos. I did some research and found out that there were thousands of people who explore these types of buildings. I was instantly hooked. I even infiltrated an abandoned brewery on a busy street in Marburg!

In the three years since I have researched locations in my free time. Whenever I shoot a location I like to share my photos on Flickr. I also like to do research to see if I can discover anything about the location history. Sometimes there is a lot of info to be found, but many locations remain an enigma.

Here are a few sample shots.

The Solvay Coke & Gas plant. Located in the heart of downtown Milwaukee. This real estate is in a prime location on the Wisconsin river. Ownership has changed hands a few times in the past decade. The EPA requires the site to be cleaned of all toxic chemicals before development can continue. This is a well-known urbex location.


The Day Kennedy Was Shot - I found the abandoned house this book was in while running from a property owner that spotted me at another urbex location. I actually asked the adjacent property owners if it was okay to shoot there. One of the few times I asked permission.


This abandoned Caledonia home was erected in the mid-1920s. I figured this out because the peeling wallpaper in every room was lined with newspaper underneath from 1924. There was no electricity, plumbing, or heating when the house was built. It was abandoned in the late 1970's.


Whoever lived in this farm trailer spoke Ukrainian, German, and English. Abandoned around 1978.


The Peter Cooper Glue Factory is also a well known urbex location south of Milwaukee. One of the buildings on the site (pictured) is under active demolition. Who was Peter Cooper? He invented Jell-O. The government is not thrilled about this site.


Eastern State Penitentiary - The first large scale prison in the United States located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is currently a maintained ruin museum. Parts of the film "12 Monkeys" with Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt were filmed there.


I'm always looking for information and people to go along with. If you have any urbex info that you would like to share by all means CONTACT ME! I love to take people to these places, even if I've been there before. It is always amazing to see how they change as time progresses.

I'm so passionate about Urbex that I even shot a short documentary on the subject for one of my grad courses. View the video on YouTube.

My urbex specific collections on Flickr.

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Comment by TheNixer on January 5, 2010 at 1:39pm
This is a really awesome write-up Ken! I'd love to get out more and do some shooting myself but a 40 hour job and two young, adorable kids keep me near the house. As they get older I'd love to follow in your footsteps. I'm a photographer myself and my favorite camera is my Hasselblad 500C/M - I absolutely love medium format film! I'll need a good wide angle lens before I attempt the feats you've accomplished here, however. You've got some really good stuff here - thanks for sharing it!

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