Why Do We Like History?

Do you have something you tell people when they ask you why you explore the old places? I can say a few words about history, a love for the old workmanship, etc. But, there is more to it. Things I don’t put into words because they make me seem a sad and lonely person. I don’t feel that way about myself. But, if my photographs are about preserving the past and feelings of things lost, fading and forgotten… I think that says something about me. It makes me seem needy, vulnerable. So, I don’t have an answer for the question of why I explore, other than touching the surface about liking history.

The email I’ve cut and pasted below was from 2011. I thought it would be easy to send a reply back, but I’ve never managed to answer the question without feeling vulnerable or lacking sincerity. I could have sent a fluff answer. But, I don’t want to. Some day there will be nothing left of me but what I did, wrote or photographed. None of those things are permanent. My existence will slip through history, like most people. The least I can do is put integrity and honesty into the very little remnants there will be.

I think about this still. The question I thought would be simple to answer, but isn’t.

Thanks for sending the link. Your photos look wonderful. You’ve definitely got a better eye through the lens than I.

I’ve spoken to a couple of environmental historians and the message seems to be the same. For your collection to be of use to a historian for research purposes, it would need extensive metadata about exactly where and when the photos were taken. Preferably following a standard metadata convension used by professional archivists (eg, Dublin Core http://dublincore.org/).

The historians also believed that your collection is much more likely to be of interest to someone for research purposes in 30 or 40 years and that perhaps then the interest would be in you as a photographer interested in old buildings, as opposed to the contents of the photos themselves.

Having said that, the photos are great and if you’d like to write a few paragraphs about why you’ve decided to take them and why you think it’s important to preserve these types of buildings on film, we’d be happy to share the story and a link to your photos on our news feed. Our readers tend to have a keen interest in the past and how we can understand the past. Your knowledge of photography and preserving would certainly be worth understanding further.

Let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Adam Crymble

Fake Buildings

littlehouseI’ve seen at least a couple of small houses which have never been lived in. They were built to disguise equipment/ machinery for the telephone/ power company. It’s not so hard to recognize them because they all look about the same.

The image in this post comes from Google street view. This house is one I see every time I go to the local grocery store, it’s just a couple of streets away, in my neighbourhood.

Faux facades, fake buildings or whatever official name they have been given are interesting to find.

Have you seen any? You may not have noticed them. You may think your town is too small to have one, or any. It’s not the size of the town, however, it’s the location that counts.

  • power relay stations
  • cell phone infrastructure
  • train tunnels
  • ventilation
  • emergency access

Sources for other fake buildings:

Ghost Preservation Worse Than Demolition?

This is not preserving history. It looks like a skin graft that didn’t take. A mask to be taken off when the party is over. I haven’t noticed anything like this before, but, I’m not living in Toronto these days.

Worse than demolition? I don’t know. I doubt something left like this will be maintained with the same effort as the newer building which really is part of the structure. How likely is the old facade to be left to crumble away when it really isn’t needed. Just an attempt at making peace with local historians.

This is why I love the photographs of the original places. It is sad that photographic technology hasn’t always had all the options for colour and detail which we have now. Yet, what will people a hundred years from now think of our obsolete images? Nothing can really be preserved, it can only be kept a little longer.

London is filled with grafted facades, nearly two-dimensional artifacts held in place while updated buildings are constructed behind them; many seem to haphazardly half-disguise the boring new stru…

Source: Saving Face: ‘Ghost Facade’ Preservation Worse Than Demolition? | Urbanist

Day Time Adventures

Day time adventures are my personal favorite because I can take pictures and actually see the building in natural lighting.  Although the buildings are losing their old looks, they’re gaining new characteristics such as vines and erosion that give them a unique, beautiful look.  There’s a rich history to be accounted for once you really take a look at them.  Each place has a story to tell.

Source: Your Guide to Urban Exploration | EVERYTHING EXCLUSIVE MAGAZINE

I prefer daytime adventures too. I like to see everything and I’m not looking around hoping to scare myself with ghosts.

Urban Exploration Ethics and Standards

I haven’t written a well thought out list for myself. Mainly I already know what crosses the line for me and the rest I decide at the time as things change. I seldom enter a building. That feels a bit too law breaking for me. Not very safe either.

I stick closely to “leave only footprints – take only photographs”. I’ve never vandalized a site, including leaving litter or moving anything to pose it for my photograph. In that way I think photographing derelict places should be like a game of golf – play it where it lies.

urbexstandards

Source: Urban Adventure Org

A Tribute to Jeff Chapman: #RIPNinjalicious

Jeff Chapman (1973 – 2005) #RIPNinjalicious

Jeff Chapman was a Canadian urban explorer, known as Ninjalicious. Jeff published Access All Areas and the founder of Infiltration, zines and website.

jeffinfiltration

“It’s the thrill of discovery that fascinates me. Yes, I know I’m not the first person there, but I can honestly say I found it and I earned the experience for myself. After exploring for a while, you get a wonderful feeling that you’re “in on” the secret workings of cities. You know what’s under your feet and what’s behind the closed doors and what the city looks like from the highest office towers, while almost everyone around you only ever looks at the public areas and never truly pays attention to urban structures unless they’ve paid admission to take a look.” – Jeff Chapman/ Ninjalicious

Source: Interview at Philadelphia City Paper with Neil Gladstone (1998?)

ninjaliciousThis month, August 2015, marks ten years since Jeff Chapman passed away. I thought someone should post in his honour. I never met him personally. I did email with him, twice. I met his wife, Liz, at a Broken Pencil Zine Festival in Toronto.

I attended the Festival to buy Access All Areas: A User’s Guide to the Art of Urban Exploration, see some of Jeff’s (and other publishers) zines and take a look at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. I was just beginning to explore with a digital camera then. Before that I just didn’t know what I was doing had a name (and film was expensive!).

jeffchapman

A tribute can still be found at the Toronto Architectural Conservancy 

Jeff Chapman (September 19, 1973 – August 23, 2005), better known by the pseudonym Ninjalicious, was a Toronto-based urban explorer, fountaineer, writer and founder of the urban exploration zine Infiltration: the zine about going places you’re not supposed to go. He was also a prominent author and editor for YIP magazine,as well as its website, Yip.org.
Chapman attended York University in the early 1990s and later studied book and magazine publishing at Centennial College. He went on to serve as Editor at History Magazine and as Director of the Toronto Architectural Conservancy board.

Chapman died of cholangiocarcinoma on Tuesday, August 23, 2005 — three years after a successful liver transplant at Toronto General Hospital (a location he loved to explore). He was 31 years old.

Source: Wikipedia: Ninjalicious

Toronto’s own late Jeff Chapman (a.k.a. “Ninjalicious”) published his first printed issue of Infiltration, “The zine about going places you’re not supposed to go,” in 1996. Though Toronto may not live in the imagination of people around the world, Chapman made this city’s sewers famous for his global readers. His work lives on in Access all Areas, his book published just before his death to cancer in 2005, and at infiltration.org.

Source: Shawn Micallef: Getting to know Toronto’s sewers

Under the alias Ninjalicious is where Jeff made his biggest mark. In his early twenties he spent long periods of time in the hospital battling various diseases. Often bored, he and his IV pole would go exploring the hospital, investigating the basement, peaking behind doors, looking for interesting rooms and equipment. It was here his love for the under explored side of buildings developed, and upon returning to health he created Infiltration – the zine about going places you’re not supposed to go.

Infiltration has had a profound influence on urban exploration in Toronto and around the world, as evidenced by the hundreds of tributes left for him in the Urban Exploration Resource forum. Ninjalicious had a strong code of ethics which he promoted, including no stealing or vandalizing while exploring. Issue 1, all about Ninj’s beloved Royal York Hotel, was published in 1996, and the zine was continually published throughout the years ending most recently with Issue 25: Military Leftovers.

Source: Sean Lerner: Torontoist: Death of a Ninja

About ten years ago I was in a Toronto bookshop and found a copy of Infiltration. Subtitled “the zine about going places you’re not supposed to go”, it was devoted to the escapades of the author, Jeff Chapman — or “Ninjalicious”, to use his nom de plume — as he explored the many off-limits areas in famous Toronto buildings such as the Royal York hotel, CN Tower, or St. Mike’s Hospital. In each issue, Chapman would pick a new target and infiltrate it — roaming curiously around, finding hilarious secrets, then describing it with effervescently witty delight. Chapman had the best prose of any zine author I’ve read anywhere. Many zinesters are clever, of course, but Chapman wrote with a 19th-century literary journalist’s attention to detail; nothing escaped his notice, from the relative fluffiness of the towels in executive lounges to the color of the rust pools in a mysterious, hangar-sized room buried below Toronto’s subway system.

Source: Clive Thompson: Collision Detection: R.I.P. “Ninjalicious” — the founder of urban exploration

infiltrationThe zine about going places you’re not supposed to go, like tunnels, abandoned buildings, rooftops, hotel pools and more.

Source: Infiltration

See also:

cancon
what is it that attracts you to going where you’re not suppposed to go?

Ninjalicious
Healthy human curiousity about the workings of the world I live in, of course. I mean, it’s free, it’s fun and it hurts no one. A harder-to-answer question would be: why doesn’t everyone?

cancon
what are the tools of your trade?

Ninjalicious
Usually I travel very lightly, with a pen, paper, a Swiss army knife, a camera and a flashlight. That’s about all the equipment I need to have a good time in 90% of the places I visit. I take along more specialized equipment — such as rubber boots or various props — for specific targets.

Source: Cancon Interview with James Hörner

Letter Boxes, Mail Boxes and Slots

This idea comes from The Pen Pal Project.

I like all the little details of buildings, mail slots are one of those. They’ve become obsolete here. Mail will no longer be delivered door to door at all in Ontario soon. I have a beat up looking mail box outside my front door. It began as black and new, was spray painted a few different colours (bronze, and green another time). No point in replacing it. Once the mail stops coming to the house the only thing left will be junk mail delivered door to door and the local newspaper. The newspaper delivery (and the odd courier package) is how the mail box got it’s beat up look.

I don’t know about you, but with all this letter writing, I’ can’t help but notice letter boxes, mailboxes and mail slots every where!!

Source: Letter, letters every where… | The Pen Pal Project

Shard Yards?

I hadn’t heard the phrase “shard yard” until reading it here (this post from Winnipegger on Facebook). I guess Guildwood Inn could be a shard yard, here in Scarborough, Ontario. What a great place for urban explorers to try to find and photograph! I’ll be looking for shard yards online. They could include remnants from cemeteries as well as demolished buildings.

The remnants of important buildings demolished 40 years ago may see new life following Monday’s approval of a transfer of stewardship to Heritage Winnipeg.The city’s downtown development committee voted in favour of declaring as surplus historical “shards,” or pieces of building construction materials and artwork, and transferring responsibility for them to Heritage Winnipeg.Cindy Tugwell, the group’s executive director, said this plan is a result of two or three years of work between the City of Winnipeg and Heritage Winnipeg.

Source: Old ‘shards’ may see new life with Heritage Winnipeg | Metro

shard yard

Photo from CBC Manitoba on Facebook.