Urbex Photographer Comes Across Abandoned Film School Full of Photo History and Gear Galore


Johnny Joo is a name you might recognize. Not too long ago we featured a series of images Joo captured at a ‘train graveyard’ hidden in the forests of North Carolina. This time, we’re back with some more recent urbex work of his that takes us into the ruins of an abandoned film school that was chock full of items that are doubly interesting to us as photographers.

Joo had no idea what he was about to find when he entered this building. As he walked through the maze of hallways, he found that each door he encountered lead him a new surprise, but it wasn’t until a few rooms in that Joo realized just what this building used to be.


Hanging from the collapsing ceiling in one of the rooms was a piece of paper. It read, “Welcome to your set from the art dept. Good luck and enjoy yourself!” Figuring then that he was inside a set room that might’ve once been used for a theatre class, a collection of boxes that sitting just outside of the room brought the whole picture together.

Familiar names greeted him from within the boxes; Kodak, Olympus, Fuji and more adorned the equipment hidden away in this abandoned building. It was then that he realized he had hit the ‘jackpot’ for an Urbex photographer: he had found a film school.


Each new room he entered held more equipment, a better find than Joo could’ve hoped for. Old film reels, projectors, theatre seating, stages and the like covered every inch of the crumbling tiles and floorboards.

Below we’ve included some of our favorite photos from his journey inside the school for your viewing pleasure. After you look at them, be sure to head on over to Architectural Afterlife and read Joo’s entire account of the trip.





















You can keep up with Joo’s urbex work through his website, Facebook and YouTube. And if you’d like to keep an eye on urbex photography as a whole, you can also give their Facebook Page a follow.

(via Architectural Afterlife)

Image credits: Photographs by Johnny Joo and used with permission

  • Sir Stewart Wallace

    That brings a small tear to muh eye.

  • zdroberts

    Oh the Steenbeck, how many scars, mentally and physically from my hundreds of hours working with you.

  • l0k

    What a treasure trove. Almost an overload.
    I could see myself spending ages picking through all the things found there.
    Aside from the photography stuff, you could get a fair amount of money in total for those clothes, given a bit of a clean, if you got your ebay keywords right

  • Adam Cross

    I would happily sit and watch every inch of the bits and pieces of films that might be left in those cans

  • OtterMatt

    How does someone just LEAVE all that stuff behind?!

    I know it seems commonplace at the time, but you paid for all of it, just put it in proper storage somewhere!

  • Morgan Glassco


    That is like the most perfect find!!

  • ynpht

    what happened to “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”, greedy smucks

  • MEEfO

    The same thing that happens to any community as it grows

  • MEEfO

    You’d think someone would be able to identify which school this is–or was, rather. As with the previous article highlighting Joo’s work (the so-called Train Graveyard series), this location could benefit from a photographer with a better eye for detail, composition, and storytelling.

  • Mr Hogwallop

    Oh my, watching a completed student film can be a challenge but to watch every inch of unedited footage…have at it, friend….

  • Uncle Wig

    You’re the reason urbex folks like Joo keep these locations to themselves.

  • Leonardo Abreu

    This is so 70’s

  • Alan Dove

    Identifying the school would give away the location, which would lead a
    pack of looters there immediately. See, for example, the commenter above who’s already salivating about eBay values for this stuff.

  • OtterMatt

    Even though the film canister says Nov 7, 1992? Yup.

  • l0k

    Just to clarify, which part of my comment made me the reason why locations are not released? As a non-urbex fellow I don’t know all the etiquette, sorry. I didn’t even realise the locations weren’t published.
    I certainly wouldn’t tamper with a location without asking the original finder first. My original comment was under the hypothetical that I was the original finder of a place like this.
    There would not be enough hours in the day for me to open, play with and photograph all the things I found. But I don’t know, is it not acceptable to sell some of the things like clothes?

  • jaakewilson

    Can we stop saying “urbex” yet?

  • IL

    General urbex rules of engagement are to take nothing from the location, and leave nothing except for footprints. Generally, to try to interfere as little as possible with the location. In the case of photographers, we content ourselves with photographing the places as we find them. Your desire to pick through, steal (yes, I used that word) and even sell some of the items violates that.

  • l0k

    There was I thinking this would be a nice response clarifying the rules to me in my ignorance, then you went and did that passive aggressive thing with the word “steal”. So, thanks.. I guess.

  • Eli Bishop

    “is it not acceptable to sell some of the things like clothes?”

    No, it’s not. Please don’t ever urban explore, for everyone’s sake.

  • l0k

    I don’t think I will. Everyone who does it seems to be really rude.

  • rivercityrocker

    I wonder what would have happened if somebody hadn’t “stolen” Vivian Meier’s photographs? Who knows what treasures are in those film canisters?

  • IL

    It’s important to note that Vivian Meier’s photographs were not stolen from anywhere. She had put them into storage but due to circumstances could not continue to pay for their storage, resulting in the storage owners selling the contents. It’s a totally different path of provenance compared to simply taking things from an abandoned site. Reasons why the latter are problematic:
    1) ownership of site is unclear – but even if you are there are usually laws preventing the removal of items from public land
    2) considering the relatively recent abandonment of the site (early 90s) it’s likely many of the authors of the works are still alive (and certainly the provisions under copyright law providing coverage a certain number of decades after death would not have expired yet) – you’d have to negotiate copyright issues if you hope to do anything with their work

  • Adam Cross

    love student films, short films etc. I would happily watch it all! :P

  • MEEfO

    Agreed. It’s a shame, really.

  • rivercityrocker

    Blah blah blah. Stupid “urbexer’s code”. Anyone that called themselves an “urbexer” is a freakin’ tool anyhow.

    Things that are abandoned are left behind because nobody wanted them. If someone does want them and can put good use to it, I say TAKE IT.

  • IL

    I don’t think many people call themselves urbexers – in fact that’s not even a point I made in my original comments. “Urbex” is a useful term to refer to “exploring abandoned/otherwise-out-of-bounds places” but if you prefer a longer/alternative way of calling it, no one is going to be too fussed about your personal word choices.
    The “code” as you call it is more of a practical way of treating places, with the aim of keeping it in much the same way as they are found so others in the future can enjoy it too. Think of it like the Prime Directive in Star Trek, only this applies to locations.
    Practical advantages of doing this is that locations last much longer, especially because looting usually results in stricter security and locking down of places.
    But realistically, no one can force you to not do something – if you, for example, find a place and decide to bring in a large group of friends to loot it wholesale then trash the entire location, no one can really prevent you from doing that. That’s the reality as it stands today – and as it has stood for thousands of years (case in point: the looting of the Pharaoh’s tombs by grave robbers).
    That said, there’s also nothing compelling people who find new places to disclose where they are to others. But if you are diligent enough in searching for these places, I’m sure you can find a few that you can do with as you please – given, of course, that no one else has already taken all the good stuff.

  • rivercityrocker

    Star Trek reference? NERD.

    Taking some old clothes and film reels is hardly comparable to looting a pharaohs tomb.

  • Ralph Hightower

    Who knows if the next Vivian Maier is in those rolls of film?

  • Nick

    You talk too much.