Stories Like This are Why Urbex Photogs are So Secretive About Where They Shoot


The world of Urbex (short for “Urban Exploration”) photography is a secretive one. In general, Urbex photographers keep purposely silent on the specific locations where they’ve shot, and for the most part, it’s not because they want to keep these dilapidated finds entirely to themselves.

The reason why asking an Urbex photographer where a photo was taken is likely to be met with a vague answer or none at all is perfectly illustrated by the story of the Belgian snow cats in the photo above.

The photograph above, taken by photographer The Other Side, shows the snow cats that Belgium used to explore Antarctica in the 1960s. Relegated to an abandoned shed, the logo on the side of the snow cats was actually designed by HergĂ©, the same artist who drew Tin Tin, and could be considered a collector’s item.

Not a problem… until someone shared the abandoned machines’ location on the Internet. This photo by Casual Urbex shows what they look like now:


The logos have been cut out. According to The Other Side, the place is “completely sealed now,” so nobody will be getting in to further mess with the snow cats, but the damage is done.

So the next time you ask about an Urbex photo’s location and get snubbed by the photographer, it’s not because he or she is a jerk. You just never know who’s going to see that location, and what non-photographic interest they might have in it.

(via DIY Photography)

Image credits: Photographs by The Other Side and Casual Urbex used with permission

  • Peter “Pots”

    I have always believed that if you are interested in that kind of photography then go out and find it yourself. If someone wants more than that, just politely say “go find it for yourself just like I did.” Too bad someone had to trash a “relic.”

  • OtterMatt

    That is a tragedy.

  • eltiare

    Another reason is the photographer might be arrested for trespassing…

  • Simson Petrol

    Same in Berlin with some great abandoned places, like the old Iraki Embassy. Once it was out that you could enter, people stole basically everything and then partied there…it all ended with various fires, which destroyed a huge part of the interior. I don’t get this….

  • DHDD

    Not really… Laws are different in every country. If you don’t have to climb a fence… and when a shed or other place is not locked, or has open windows.. (and most important nobody lives there) you could easily go in and take pictures.. It’s not you are breaking or stealing anything. In any case the photographer will be asked to leave, and that’s it. If that was the case you would not see so many pictures of abandoned places.

  • Beaugrand_RTMC

    In some jurisdictions in the US you can be charged with “unlawful entry,” even if the place is unlocked, and in some cases, even if the door is open. You will definitely have a problem if you ignore a “no trespassing” sign, or one that says “do not enter.”

  • John Wesley Baker

    whats not to get… I can see historical merit in things, but that is me. Personally I think if someone kind find a use for something abandoned and left then whatever. I cant believe this machines are just sitting there degrading. I looked at pictures of the embassy and I think it looks very cool now. People have interacted with it. Damaged it. Painted on it. It is an expression of who we are… unvalued people acting on an unvalued object. Its beautiful.

  • DHDD

    Yes ofcourse. But it’s different in every country in Europe.. Same as it will be different in some states in USA. Most urbexers know the risks they take. Or what they can or can’t do.

  • Simson Petrol

    There is a difference between using something and simply destroying it for the purpose of destroying, and sh***** and p***** in the rooms is certainly not really cool and beautiful. It will be no longer look cool and painted and what not, if people remain burning it down room for room…I, personally, would like to see a more natural way of aging and decay instead of plain vandalism that destroys the experience for others…but thats just my opinion…

  • opaqueentity

    Often it can just come down to, ‘Is it your property? Do you have permission to be there?’ If not you will be arrested.
    Lots of urbexers do indeed breaks laws. They might not be seen as so serious especially when a place is already deserted etc but that doesn’t stop it being illegal in many places,

  • MEEfO

    The entire point of the practice is a form of historical preservation. Preservation being the operative word. Those who are just in it for thrill seeking or for illegal activity are tarnishing the community.

  • Greg Heller

    First it’s terrible that someone would destroy those historic snow cats, I hope they get exposed and I’m surprised to hear that Europeans would trash things like that, I lived in Germany for 2.5 years and I didn’t see that kind of behavior any place I went in Europe, I actually thought it was just my fellow Americans who did crap like this. I don’t understand why people can’t leave other people’s property alone.

  • David Vaughn

    Most might know the risk but it doesn’t stop them from complaining. “I can’t believe I got a fine for trespassing. I didn’t even touch anything to enter.” Doesn’t matter, if you broke the law wherever you are then that’s on you. Take some responsibility for yourself.


  • David Vaughn

    That why I dislike some of the community. It seems to be more about the risk in doing it than about the actual preservation. Most of the time, the photographer (at least around here) won’t even give any context or show much interest in the history. They’ll just talk about how they had to hide in a storm drain and crawl under a fence to reach it. :(

  • Christopher Rudigar Scotty Har

    So they were rotting in a shed and probably going to be scrapped so someone took a part of the?

  • MEEfO

    Totally agree. Once the practice broke a certain threshold from a legit sub-culture to mainstream consciousness, the waters were muddled with a flood of thrill seekers, pillagers, and other reckless sorts. They slap an overcooked faux-HDR look on top of the image–a batch process they downloaded from an urbex forum somewhere–and call it art or documentary photography. But it’s not really about that. I miss the days of meeting up with fellow history and photography enthusiasts to record a space. We’d find countless treasures, document them visually, then leave them for the next group to discover.

  • ThatGuy

    Well John, how about I show up at your place some time with some spray paint and make your house and car “an expression of who we are.”

  • ThatGuy

    Well said, and thanks MEEfO, I thought I was the only person that thought this.

  • gulfbreeze

    Well someone thought enough of them to secure them for 50 years, so probably, no. They likely thought they had some historical value somewhere down the line.

  • A. Mccormick

    Maybe if you are a little kid, you’d complain like that about being arrested for trespassing. But half the time “law enforcement” arrests someone for trespassing, it’s because they have an “excuse” to arrest you for simply walking around the outside property, and not even going inside the buildings.

  • Sir Stewart Wallace

    A bit different considering his car isn’t likely abandoned and forgotten about, never to likely be used again, but will assuredly just rot and fall out.

  • ThatGuy

    Are you really that retarded? These are not abandoned. These belong to somebody and are on their property. The owner(s) have the right to let their stuff sit and rot if they so please.

  • Sir Stewart Wallace

    Please, do tell me how they are not abandoned. Everything is rotted, the building is obviously falling apart. Somebody, clearly used a power grinder to cut out the insignia on the snow cats. That would have produced a lot of noise. Perhaps these are on a remote property, far, far away from their owner (or anybody that would have cared), but from all of the photos of this place that are floating online, it’s pretty abandoned.

  • ThatGuy

    Property is only “abandoned” if it’s left on public property for a certain length of time. These are obviously owned by someone and are on their property. Therefore, they are NOT abandoned. If something doesn’t belong to you, you have no business touching it or even being on the property. It doesn’t matter how rotted it is or how far away the owners are. This isn’t rocket science.

    Does that help, or are you still confused?

  • Kris Moralee

    Are you kidding? You didn’t think Europeans would be capable of vandalism?

    That’s going to be the funniest thing I read all day. Vandalism isn’t just specific to one geographical location sir. It is a worldwide occurence in every town and city and country.

  • Greg Heller

    I am not naive enough to think that vandalism is only a US problem, Items of historic value or that bespeak of their heritage seem to be more revered in Europe, here in the US we have to put barriers around things to keep people from defacing them. Case in point Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts sits inside a cage so people won’t chip away pieces of the rock for keepsakes. People still cut down and hack the burls out of the majestic Redwoods in Northern California. I lived in Europe in the early 70’s, there was still evidence of the war in many communities in Germany, I think at least at that time people in the European communities were more grateful for what they had, the things that hadn’t been destroyed by the war. I did witness isolated incidences of graffiti but nothing to the extent I saw here in the US at that same time. I do believe that vandalism is much more rampant here in the US even now.

  • David Vaughn

    Maybe if you’re a police cynic and skeptic that May be the case, but usually the police will arrest someone and then when that person tries to get out of the fine the police will basically say “Dude you posted selfies of your trespassing on Facebook.”

    Not every urbex photographer where I live is a smart cookie.

  • Vin Weathermon

    Seriously, having some old machines sit in a dirty frozen shed for 200 years serves no purpose anyway. At least SOMEONE got something out of it. People get hung up on this kind of stuff but in time this thing would just be a gigantic rotting pile….and still serve no purpose like it is doing right now. I understand the nostalgia, the attachment to the past…but in the big scheme of things it is extremely trivial. I’m not a big fan of vandalism, and if this was preserved and a caretaker was there to mind the store of all its valuables that would be fine…but it is a shithole….that got a little bit shittier. Why cry?

  • Oj0

    Plain damn selfishness. Disgusting.

  • captaindash

    You’re right on the last part about “unvalued” people damaging stuff. Those people have no value at all.

    Normally I wouldn’t go on the interwebs and try and pick a fight, especially on a photo site on an unrelated matter, but you are an absolute waste of space. It’s even understandable to say that the damaged embassy looks “cool” now because what happened was aesthetically pleasing to you. That doesn’t necessarily make it a judgment call on whether or not it was okay to destroy it in the first place. You cross the line when you say “It’s beautiful” because the way you say it comes across like you’re condoning the purposeful destruction of someone else’s property just for fun. You and the other 2 people who upped your comment need to seriously think about what your comment really entails in real world terms. I desperately hope that someone decides that you leaving your house for the weekend means it’s ‘abandoned’ and they go in and destroys all your camera gear.

    My ‘expression of who we are’ would be swift and severe if I caught anybody doing that.

  • captaindash

    Like I said to the JWB above; abandoned is a matter of perspective. I hope when he leaves for a vacation, his house is considered ‘abandoned’ and someone goes in and destroys all his camera gear.

  • captaindash

    Vin, this isn’t about nostalgia. It’s about destroying things you don’t own just for fun. The person who owns the property doesn’t have to justify to you why it’s in the condition it’s in. You don’t have to justify to your neighbour why your backyard swing set is falling apart. It’s your swing set and you can do with it as you please on your property.

    If you had an old, rickety barn on your farm which held a car that hadn’t been driven in 15 years (but you were planning to restore with your son who’s 4 now, when he turns 16), can I go in and do anything I want to it?

  • DL

    Plenty of places are totally wrecked already, or are just things like huge buildings made of cement and steel. It’s not about “preserving them unless you think there are people rushing off with cutting torches and sledgehammers. They want to keep their finds their own. Nothing wrong with that. But dont make it out to be some kind of history reverence thing.

  • Dread_Pirate_Roberts

    Wait, what? Trespassing is trespassing. True, jurisdictions may DEFINITE that differently, but private property rights exist in every jurisdiction on the planet. So let’s stop dancing around what Urbexers know to be true – that what they’re doing is illegal – and focus on the key question – is it worth the risk? The answer to the latter depends on the individual.

  • goltan

    People usually do it to buy drugs. It’s junkies that usually destroy these sites(and maybe rowdy kids) trying to find stuff to resell.

    Usually the people who wreck joints scrap copper wire, steal anything worth seeing, or more importantly, force the property owner to invest in tighter security which makes it harder for the next explorer.

    I don’t think most Urbex explorers are 100% against grabbing some cool trinkets but defacing property to grab something is breaking the thin line that separates us from cat burglars.

  • goltan

    Actually they are rushing off with cutting torches or sledgehammers. The biggest threat is usually junkie copper scrappers and their ilk. They target both new and abandoned buildings and usually destroy the place beyond reasonable repair.

    These are the same guys who steal sewer caps to make $50 or destroy $5k worth of stuff to steal $100 worth of pipes.

    Taking a few trinkets isn’t a problem, it’s dismantling someone’s property to sell. That thing might end up in a museum some day….somebody is going have to spend an awful lot of money repainting and welding so some dude can stick it on his bedroom wall or worse….in the back of a closet.