Some people ask me about these locations I work in.
I have been into urban explorer photography (also called urbex) for a short period of time. I din’t really get far into this. Not that it didn’t please me, but modeling work pleases me more, because you work together with at least one other person to a result. There’s not much conversation possible with an abandoned building or a landscape. (another discipline in photography, that I still do from time to time)
In urbex, most of the locations are very abandoned, and you might get in with permission at rare occasions, but most of the time, you just don’t ask permission, don’t know who to ask to, or just simply don’t bother. This includes the risk of being ‘discovered’ by the owner, the housekeeper or even the police, … (never occurred to me 😉 )
As soon as I started doing model work, I convinced myself that it would not be a good idea getting the police behind my back whilst my model is working on the next intimate pose, or while she’s changing clothes, or some other awkward moment during the shoot. Finding locations is not easy, by far not. It has to be accessible, not too far driving from where you as a photographer are based (preferably), give plenty of light possibilities, give nice decorative possibilities etc. … And you need to get access at the times you want to shoot at.
My one and only advice in this matter is: Try to find the owner of the place, contact him or her, try to make a mutual beneficial agreement. Most people have shown great willingness whenever practically possible. I now have 4 different locations I regularly shoot in, and all 4 owners were very quickly sympathizing with the idea. I mostly offer free photo work – to some degree – if they would need any, be it for family or business matters.
This is what happened with the location of the shoot I’ll show you pictures of in this post:
While riding my motor trough the flemish ardennes (a part of our region called so because it resembles the ardennes – but actually it is more beautiful) I see this beautiful complex that seems like an old cloister, nursery school, orphanage, … and I decide to halt and look if I can find signs of people around.
After peeping trough some windows, knocking on the door, some kind of housekeeper gets his head out on the second floor, talking to me in a foreign language. (Being a Belgian citizen, I do speak and understand quite some languages, but clearly not this one) Impossible to talk to him, but he’s able to point me to a information panel hanging on the wall, that contains different phone numbers of the owner of the place. I have called the owner a couple of days later and she said:
“sure, no problem, I have been a model myself in my younger days. Just call me whenever you want to get in. When there are no groups (the location is rented as a summer camp house for big groups) you’re welcome.”
Easy as that, and something similar happened with the mansion, the old villa, the warehouse and the storage building. So, just ask, don’t ask for the impossible, be polite and be willing to offer some service in exchange. After that, be clear in your communication (when you want to shoot, for how long, with how many people, etc. …) and you’ll have a good chance for a lasting relationship.
One last remark about sharing locations with other photographers. Well, I’m very reluctant about that, and mostly for one reason. It is not because the owner granted me permission to shoot in a certain building, that he/she is also interested in receiving other photographers, or in being bothered by a different photographer every day, … Besides, the exchange offer they get from me, they won’t need it from another photographer, don’t they? 😉
So, enough about locations. I worked with Karen for the first time, first time in this new building too. The sky was cloudy, so there was really not much light inside. It required some searching, trying a lot of different angles, but we managed to get some really nice images after all. Karen told me afterwards “the pictures are really superb”. Thank you Karen.
All images taken with Canon 5D II at ISO 200 (except one at ISO 100), Lenses used in this selection: Canon EF 24mm f1.4 L II, Canon EF 50mm f1.4, Canon EF 85mm f1.8, Canon EF 135mm f2.0 L. All natural light.
Any questions about this post, just ask!