Urban Explorers give new life to old buildings with help from Instagram

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The skyrocketing number of abandoned buildings in Chicago has fueled an interesting photography trend. Every day, so-called “urban explorers” are venturing into abandoned structures in order to capture unique pictures. While the practice has been around for decades, the term “urban exploring” is believed to have started in Chicago about 20 years ago.

Smartphones have made the practice more popular than ever. But urban exploring can be risky and quite dangerous.

Chicago’s newest urban explorers are armed with smartphones and a slew of apps for photo editing.

Instagram is fertile ground for urban explorers to share their adventures and engage in friendly competition. They seek each other out through hashtags.

“The community in Chicago is huge,” says Tim . “There are so many photographers. They kind of support each other but at the same time they kind of compete because they want to get the shots no one else is getting.”

But seeking out urban decay often involves trespassing. That’s part of the appeal.

Back in December, a man actually died while trying to take pictures from the roof of Chicago’s Intercontinental Hotel. The 23-year-old fell down the smokestack and died from internal injuries.

Along with the physical dangers, explorers also risk running into gang members and homeless people, and, of course, getting arrested for trespassing.

View this post on Instagram

Skittles Train Station.

A post shared by Danny Mota | Made in Chicago (@dannymota) on

The online portfolio payoff seems to be praise in the form of likes and comments and the online landscape is changing for urban explorers with the recent addition of video sharing on Instagram.  But they still prefer  posting still images, viewing it as a more powerful way to honor and preserve what once was.

Urban exploring is also popular in Detroit, Minneapolis and many other cities, even internationally.

You can follow on Instagram:

Nancy Loo – @nancyloo

WGN Photographer Jordan Guzzardo – @jordanguzzardo

Explorer Danny – @dannymota

Explorer Aaron – @aaronbradleychicago

Exlorer Tim – @thara_photo

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