Neil Ta may not be a hardcore veteran of the urban exploration community, but in just a few short years, he's managed to explore the sewers, rooftops, and abandoned buildings of his native Toronto as well as sites in Detroit, Philadelphia, Cambodia and Australia. Exploring at this level takes more than stones of steel. It takes a lot of hard work, foresight, and planning. Doing so in pursuit of photographs as vivid and evocative as Ta's takes real talent as well. Luckily for us, Ta has compiled a few of his best shots as well as his accumulated wisdom on the topic of urban exploration into a free ebook called Urban Exploration Photography, which breaks down what it takes to become an urban explorer and what you need to bring along to come back with world class shots of your exploits.
Ta even agreed to a brief interview to help us understand the global underground community of urban explorers:
1) How did you get interested in Urban Exploration as a photographic subject?
About two years or so ago, I stumbled upon the Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s The Ruins of Detroit images and was immediately taken aback by them. I wanted to take these sort of images and decided to do a lot of research on abandoned buildings. I quickly discovered there was an entire underground, almost secret society of people across the world who call themselves urban explorers. In my own city of Toronto I discovered numerous locations that would act as my first several urbex adventures.
2) Who taught you the "rules of the road," since Urban Exploration seems to have its own internal codes of conduct despite its general lawlessness?
I attended a monthly meeting of urban explorers in Toronto and got to explore with someone who I really admired at the time, Hi-Lite. He later became a good friend of mine. He operates under the radar, is respectful and takes stunning images. The "politics of urbex" as addressed in my eBook is more for entertainment value than it is about actual conflict. We all have a mutual respect for one another and can respect those who've done things which are extraordinary.
3) Can you tell us about your craziest exploration?
Not really. All I can say is it involved an active rooftop/helicopter pad in a foreign country. It was all a mistake that we got there, but we made it out fine. One of the more interesting explores I've had was recently in Philadelphia at the decommissioned Holmesburg Prison. Because of the history of this place, that includes human dermatological testing, it made for a very interesting (albeit creepy) adventure.
A sampling of Ta's urban exploration photography can be found below. He updates his blog daily with his photographic work, which goes beyond urban exploration and rooftops to encompass portraiture, editorial, and travel photography of all sorts
Holmesburg - a jail cell at the decommissioned Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia, designed in the same fashion as the larger Eastern State Penitentiary. It is known for the human guinea pig experiments that saw inmates subjected to medical experiments, including the injection of dioxin into the skin, among others.
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Farwell Building - the infamous railings at the atrium at the Farwell office building in Detroit. This building recently received notice of some funding, so the hope is it will be preserved/re-purposed.