The world's best-kept photography secrets
You may never know whether politics, business or love was made in that crumbling, abandoned building. That mystery is exactly what draws photographers to lost places. They take photos, but never reveal the locations.
The beauty of decay
Lost places, creaking floors, the echo of decades of silence, traces of bygone life: That's part of the fascination of urban Exploration - known as urbex or UE - a trend that is growing among adventurous photographers. Urban explorers, like Anke Staudacher, who shares treasures she's discovered around the world, search for abandoned places and buildings to document their history and decay.
Urban explorers are looking for a thrill, though their motivations can be very diverse. While some aim to preserve history, or document the condition of buildings and places, others are more fascinated by the romantic image of decay and try to capture the contradiction of life and decline in their photographs.
Finding the lost
Abandoned hospitals, industrial warehouses, tunnels and catacombs, public institutions or private houses - all kinds of structures can offer the perfect setting for urban explorers. The sole criterion for lost places is that they are truly lost - abandoned and uninhabited.
With a watchful eye you can find some urbex treasures - literally - at the roadside. Most urban explorers belong to small communities, which share location tips and go stalking together.
Well kept secrets
In the urbex scene it is taboo to publish the exact location and details about a lost place in order to protect the buildings from vandalism and maintain their sense of mystery. This photo shows the cellar of what used to be a children's holiday camp in eastern Germany.
Faint-hearted? Then stay home
Ready for an adrenaline high? Particularly in huge industrial buildings, it's not uncommon o hear windows rattle in the wind, doors squeak, and pigeons fly off alarmed. The urban explorer has to have strong nerves; urbex is not a hobby for the faint-hearted. At the same time, the fascination of these almost silent buildings is that they - and life in general - seem to be suspended in time.
The magic of light
Lost places can be found around the globe, which is why urbex has become a worldwide interest. Urban explorers often travel beyond their own national borders to discover some special lost places abroad.
Abandoned, but not lost
Kolmanskop is a ghost town in Namibia's desert near Lüderitz. When the people left their homes, the desert moved in. Today these fascinating, sand-filled buildings are part of a museum that provides insight into the history of diamond mining and the lifestyle of the colonial period. Unlike authentic urbex destinations, these houses are open to the public.
Use your imagination
Urbex isn't only about photography. If you don't just visit and explore the lost places, but do some research on the buildings, their history and former purpose, their owners and why they were abandoned, you're likely to dig up some very interesting stories.
Phases of deterioration
A few years ago, the decorative pillars and high walls of this now demolished church still demonstrated power. After a construction project to remodel the place of worship into luxury apartments failed, the church was left to the elements, which accelerated the process of decay.
Every lost place offers something special, a striking feature or even a surprise. Their intrigue is enhanced by knowing that so few people see them- but some of those who've set foot here have left colorful treasures for future explorers. Many places get their individual nicknames - known only within the urbex scene - from their peculiarities.
Rules of the game
The urbex codex is: Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs. Still, many lost places are willfully defaced by rioting youths and sprayers. That's all the more reason to uphold secrecy concerning their precise locations.