Exploring Obscure Places – Part 5 of 5 (and references)

Urban Exploring, Sub-culture and the Internet

The most peculiar aspect of Urban Exploring is that it has existed for some time, but only emerged as ‘something’ with the invention of the Internet. Interestingly enough, the Internet did not function as the main interest of this group of people, but merely a tool which everyone discovered each other. With the explosion of the Internet, there was also the explosion of many terminologies as to what this sub-culture could be called (refer to Venn-diagram in appendix page 20).

As I stated in my introduction, studies in Urban Exploring are far and few. Given this, I was forced to be resourceful and draw upon related academic works. It quickly became visible that easy parallels to graffiti sub-culture could be drawn. Much like exploring, identity was a central theme. With exploring, identity was something intangible, but in graffiti culture it is physical and tangible. In order to draw direct ties, a little more stretching was needed: I decided to use urban exploring photographs as something tangible to compare to ‘tagging’ (a graffiti mural).


Abandoned building with two perpendicular wings. Bell Island, Newfoundland.

Abandoned building with two perpendicular wings. Bell Island, Newfoundland.

Both of these groups function as subcultures, highly fuelled and members seek to attain higher statuses within their peer group. “There’s no financial gain, I suppose getting the respect of total strangers is payment enough really” (Macdonald 2001, 65). On top of this, they frequently inter-mingle: graffiti present in abandoned locations for example. In present day, sharing graffiti has now also reached the Internet and photographing that too can be equally challenging as a ruin. Both include issues of light, space, and mood, and feature rebellion as one of the main components of its members.


Urban Exploring is just a hobby [at the end of the day]. It is strange, and it is most certainly not for everyone. However, it is immensely interesting, and a goldmine of potential research. While I did my best to put forth as much as I could with a time constraint and as much information as available, there could be so much more.

If I had more time, I could examine the pursuit of identity, presentation of self, gender and gender roles, the body in terms of exploring, and more. But I didn’t, and I had to target something in order to meet my timeline. Within the context of this paper, I do feel I represented the sub-culture correctly and provided a springboard for future investigations. In this urban industrialized world it is most important we break away from accepting our surrounding and assess them closer and in more depth. We do not need to be afraid to physically explore the past, because in turn we can discover ourselves along the way.


Abandoned House in Ferryland, Newfoundland. Click for Larger.

Abandoned House in Ferryland, Newfoundland. Click for Larger.


Chapman , Jeff ‘Ninjalicious’. 2005. Access All Areas: A Users Guide to the Art of Urban Exploring. Toronto : Infilpress.

Conway, Hazel and Rowan Roenisch. 2005. Understanding: An Introduction to Architecture and Architectural History. New York: Routledge.

Löfstedt, Pete. 2010. Interview by Matt Reynolds. November 9th. Digital recording for Newfoundland Folklore. St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.

Macdonald, Nancy. 2001. The Graffiti Subculture: Youth, Masculinity and Identity in London and New York. New York: Palgrave.

Roth, Leland M. 1993. Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and Meaning. New York, NY: Icon Editions.


Bennett, Andy and Keith Kahn-Harris. 2004. After Subculture: Critical Studies in Contemporary Youth Culture. New York: Palgrave.

Garrett, Bradley. L. 2010. “Urban Explorers: Quests for Myth, Mystery and Meaning”. Geography Compass. 4, no. 10: 1448-1461. [accessed Nov 16, 2010].

Garrett, Bradley L. 2009. “Urban Explorers: Quests for Myth, Mystery and Meaning”. Geography Compass Journal. Video article. http://www.vimeo.com/5366045 [accessed Nov 12, 2010].

Gilbert, Melody. 2007. Urban Explorers: Into the Darkness. DVD. Frozen Feet Films.

Trigg, Dylan. 2006. The Aesthetics of Decay. New York: Peter Land Publishing Inc.

Zevi, Bruno. 1974. Architecture As Space: How to Look at Architecture. New York: Horizon Press.


2 thoughts on “Exploring Obscure Places – Part 5 of 5 (and references)

  1. That was a great bit of writing, i have been interested in urban exploring for a year now but not yet done any. It all about the photos for me, i really get a buzz out of looking at all the pic and i have just learned how to develope my own so this easter i plan to take my first adventure out. great blog.

  2. Hello there Matt! I’m an anthropology graduate from Croatia working at the Anthropological Institute here and looking to get into a one-year MA program in visual anthropology. I’m interested in urban exploration in relation to the aestheticization of abandoned spaces, so I was wondering if you might have some tips here. Your blog entry about this was interesting and informative. I’m not sure whether it’s the entire paper or you did some shortening? If it’s shortened, I’d be interested in reading the whole piece, if you would agree. Also, I’ll be in New York City from Dec 13-24, so I was wondering whether you know of any interesting urban exploration (or abandoned spaces in general) resources I might explore while I’m there. Or maybe you know some people into UE there?

    Thanks and keep up the good work! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s