Chicago’s skyline has many facets. Viewed from varied distances and vantage points, the city center can look imposing, majestic, or at times surreal. On postcards, views from the lakefront dominate. But I have always loved the view from the near South Side, at a point in the city’s topography where the low bungalows of Bridgeport and Chinatown give way to the utter flatness of river and railyards before exploding skywards north of Harrison Street. The building pictured in the foreground is the only thing that breaks the aforementioned flatness around Roosevelt Road; it is the power plant for the nearby train station and (now defunct) post office. In the background, lit green for National Emesis Awareness month, is the Sears Tower.
So long and thanks for all the free fish.
Are you looking for ruined hallway photography? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here at the Idiot Photographer, we pride ourselves on providing you with the finest pictures of run-down corridors. Looking for a visual metaphor for transience? How about exercises in one- or two-point perspective? We got it! Black and white noir pieces, moody passageways? Yes! Remember the Idiot Photographer, your one-stop source for urbex hallway photography!
As always, there are slight qualms about authenticity whenever we shoot in well-trod locations. This particular shot is from the Methodist church in Gary- the place to see in town if you’re just dipping your toes in the urbex waters. Consequently, the place is always changing: debris cleared here, new graffiti there, and leftover B-movie props laying about. The stage pictured here looks much different from the first time we saw it, when the original canvas backdrop was still hanging and the stage was littered with costumes. Ultimately, I try to adopt a Taoist approach to these things (though my partner the Idiot Photographer can’t help but disdain them), and just accept these sites and their inevitable changes as they are. After all, if someone thirty years hence likes this picture (should I be so lucky), they may appreciate it for its composition, and not worry too much whether the chair in the foreground was dragged there by an art school student with a vision. C’est la vie.
So close to freedom…
From the Ambassador apartments.
I’m not a very bold person, we had avoided exploring the Ambassador Arms for years based on how decrepit it looked and figured it was too unsound to go poking around in. Once we stopped goofing around and got a little serious I looked the place up and found that yes, people do go inside. And yes, it isn’t a terribly sound building but if you’re willing to take a chance on the stairs (7 floors to the top) then it is a worthy explore. It isn’t the riskiest building in the world of urbex but it isn’t the safest building to go poking about inside of either. Or even to walk on the sidewalk next to. I’m not kidding about the stairs, my prediction is that within the next year or two the 6th floor will no longer be accessible as someone is going to go plummeting through the remaining stairs and wind up in a world of hurt as the risers have rusted out and now the landings flex under your feet when you go up them. It makes me happy that I made it up to the penthouse rooftop garden one last time to get this photo. I remember the first time I ever saw this bit of graffiti and had a really good laugh, because indeed I had never felt so brave before.
This is a guest post from our companion on our most recent visit to Packard. You can visit her blog at juniorbbq.wordpress.com
So, I have this thing called FOMO…or “Fear Of Missing Out” syndrome. People can’t put an inkling of a thought in my head that even REMOTELY interests me, because I’m going to fixate on it and make life difficult until I just DO it already. My trip to Detroit was just that…a textbook case.
I came across The Idiot Photographer blog just surfing the internet. I love photography, with a main focus on urban exploration. So does The Idiot Photographer, so I struck up a facebook conversation. I gathered that, from the photos on the site, that The Idiot Photographer was PROBABLY from Indiana, and being a regular visitor to Chicago I thought maybe I could get a tour of Gary from said person. I knew nothing else about this person, aside from the photos I saw resonated with me and I wanted to soak up more. This was about 6 months ago, or so.
Then I got an email in January. “Our plans are to be in Detroit in early February to explore all of Packard (and whatever else we may find if time allows). I don’t know how close to Detroit you are, but you’re welcome to join us.” Oh…my…heck. First of all, an invite to the MECCA of urban exploration. Secondly, in DETROIT? How was I going to make this work? I’m a two-and-a-half day drive from Detroit, and a plane ticket would be INSANE! But, FOMO. And I made it work. There I was, on a plane on Valentine’s Day, going to a derelict city I’ve been to ONCE, meeting people I have never laid eyes on, to a place that is the largest abandoned structure in the WORLD. I don’t know if these people are going to knock me out with a tripod and leave me in the ruins that are the Packard Plant. But, FOMO.
We met early Saturday morning at the Eastern Market. My sherpas seem affable…but I’m still wary. It’s cold, it’s early, I had no Tim Hortons in me…I don’t know what to expect. In a foreign country with complete strangers. No one can accuse me of not living life, right? FOMO, after all.
Then, there in front of me, the sprawling ruins of the Packard Automotive Plant. We parked inside one of the warehouses to keep out of suspecting eyes, and off we went.
And it was amazing.
For someone who lives on the prairies, where vast emptiness dotted with abandoned farmhouses are the norm, I felt way out of my element but excited at this new challenge. The Idiot Photographer coined the phrase, “the never ending Packard”…and no truer words had been spoken. It seems rooms went on forever. The graffiti went on forever. The discarded bricks and smashed windows and staircases to more never ending rooms.
The cold went on forever too, it seemed. About two hours in, I was COLD. And I’m a Canadian from The Prairies. I live in a city coined Winter-peg, for crying out loud. And I was COLD. But I don’t say anything, because I don’t want to be “that guy”, right? I’ve got something to prove to these people who were kind enough to think of me and invite me along on a trip that was clearly important to them. But hell. I was getting to the point where I didn’t know how much more I could handle. And it was only nine in the morning! Fortunately Tabula Rasa had a brilliant idea…let’s get some breakfast to warm up, and then re-evaluate the situation. At that point, I was thinking of telling them that I’ll have some coffee and breakfast, but then I was going to head out. I was cold.
Over breakfast, conversation went all over the place, and I got to know my sherpas better. WONDERFUL people. Love what they do. The Idiot Photographer talked about a particular place that needed to be shot…the ring-toss room…and how cool it looked. I’m still on the fence about whether I wanted to go back out into the cold, but…oh…here it comes again…FOMO! The Idiot Photographer was REALLY adamant about the ring-toss room and the way it was described well, I just HAD to see it for myself. So, we bundle up and off we go again…to get back into the depths of Packard.
I am THRILLED that I made the decision not to wuss out. With a belly full of eggs and bacon and coffee…delicious, delicious coffee…I had my second wind. I was seeing the plant now as more than something with four walls (sometimes) that was holding on to the cold and shoving it down my throat. I was SEEING the rooms, the graffiti, the broken glass and discarded bricks that went on forever. Tabula Rasa and The Idiot Photographer were playing a game of dueling staircases…I was soaking it ALL in. And I loved EVERY…SINGLE…SECOND of it all. My lower back was SCREAMING in pain, and I think I popped out my hip climbing through a hole in a wall to get to a precarious ledge, and I lost feeling in a couple toes, but I wasn’t stopping. In fact, I think they would have had to drag me out of there if they were ready to be finished and I wasn’t ready to go.
FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. I have it, and it was the best case of giving in than I can remember.
Last Sunday’s excursion had a slow start, with our first two destinations proving inaccessible. It’s hard to spend a day in Gary, though, without running across something to shoot sooner or later.
Just in case you ever wondered, this is what it is like inside my brain.
Minimalist tableau from within the defunct Ambassador apartments.
From today’s outing.
Trying to stay on theme, but at some point the corridors in Packard grew to wide avenues or else encroaching ruin had made them barely passable. Are these still hallways? Close enough for the purpose of getting a blog post up, I’d say.
I’m not sure Tabula Rasa and I will ever get tired of doing this, so I’m going to promise this is my last photo of a hall way in Packard for a long while. Given the current dispute over the ownership of the building there is a very slim chance we yet visit it a third time, so I’m not going to say never. Sunday will find us out in search of new locations so it is very possible this blog will stop being “Packard the Unending” shortly. To that though, I will make no promises.
The same fantastic hallway as appeared in IP’s last post, but photographed from a different spot. And in sepia tone, because I’m fucking artsy.
A dark hallway opens
Onto morning’s blaze
So it seems we have a new theme for the week…
Regular readers may be loathe to remember the game of ‘Duelin’ Staircases’ the Idiot Photographer and I played last week, a game she won when I was forced to finally jump the shark. I figure it is time to turn to another calling card of ours: a preoccupation with decrepit hallways. This shot is looking down a corridor of what were once offices.
The second visit to a location is more than just a chance to re-shoot that one really cool thing that you missed out on.
It is a chance to really get to know a place. Now that you’ve seen the big obvious stuff you can take your time and let it all soak in. You get to slow down and really enjoy being in a place instead of the thrilling, frantic pace of trying to make sure you’ve seen everything. Our second visit to Packard was no exception, and while I ended up taking fewer photos than the first time I also spent more time in the moment just enjoying that I was there, with the people I was with, and the play of light across the floor.
I realized the other day that I still haven’t finished purging files from 2010. So into the archives I went, and look at what I came back with.