Virtual Tour
The Buildings
Urban Exploration
Pyestock Diaries

Urban Exploration

home | urban exploration

"Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time."

The urban exploration community is a bloated mass of individuals with only one thing in common: the exploration of man-made structures, usually derelict. I long for the day when the whole thing explodes into an array of movements (as did the artistic world) and the manifestos of various groups will be significantly clearer.

Until then, the whole urban exploration ideal is extremely confused. Ask any two self-dubbed "urban explorers" for their thoughts and reasons for their undertakings, and you'll usually end up with two different answers. If you're unlucky, you'll receive the reply that they’re "documenting" buildings for "history" but an examination of their work, and their underlying methodologies, will suggest completely different aims.

Many are simple photographers, drawn to the aesthetics of decay. Others love the thrill of entering forbidden territories and the game of cat-and-mouse with its protective guardians. You have the climbers who want to get up high; the drainers who want to bury into the depths; the amateur historians who want to chronicle every minuscule detail; the professional artists grabbing images for their portfolios and exhibitions; and the whole gamut in-between. It's a confusing mixture of identities and ideals.

Urban exploration to me is: a technique, a verb, a method of achieving a subsequent aim. It gives me access to locations which today’s nannying state and official do-gooders have turned into a no-go areas. I wish to see and experience the dwindling number of unique places which don’t have long to survive. Therefore I take matters into my own hands, and sneak past the security guards, or burrow under the fences, to slip into a location, take some photographs and then sneak out again.

I'm a guerrilla historian who uses urban exploration as a technique to explore, expand and engage. I’ve stood in the test chambers of Concorde's jet engines; bounced off the walls of padded cells in Victorian asylums; shouted in the anechoic chambers of top-secret military installations; burrowed underground into forgotten nuclear bunkers; walked silently through dark decontamination chambers; and much, much more. If I'd followed the rules, then I'd be poorer for it.

Personal experiences aside, I have built a photographic record of buildings and places that many others have chosen to ignore. These are carefully described and labelled because the locations they show may not exist by the time they’re published. I hope in ten, twenty or thirty year's time, these pictures will be appreciated for their historical value, and the matter in which they were obtained will be overlooked. And in some cases, this has already happened.

Simon Cornwell
4th February 2010

I rarely take photographs of my fellow explorers as the buildings are my primary aim. However, sometimes (particularly in the case of Pyestock) a lone figure is an excellent indicator of scale. So here are some of the few shots we’ve taken where the urban explorer is the focus of attention:

Simon Cornwell deep in the inner tunnels of Cell 4.
21|04|07 © Marlon Bones 2007

Marlon Bones in the plenum chamber of Cell 4.
21|04|2007 © Marlon Bones 2007

Simon Cornwell in Cell 3 West.
05|05|07 © Tom Nelson 2007

Major Tom in the mouth of Cell 3 West.
05|05|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007