The allure and dangers of exploring Philly’s decaying beauty

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(Photo courtesy of Chandra Lampreich)

(Photo courtesy of Chandra Lampreich)

Philadelphia reveals itself to residents and visitors who seek out all that makes the city unique. Photographer Chandra Lampreich is among those who turn a lens on myriad urban sites and sights that contribute to the vitality of the City of Brotherly Love. Sometimes, it gets dangerous.

Lampreich ventures into buildings that have been shuttered, photographing vestiges of their beauty and former lives in an effort to preserve the views now closed to most.

It’s part of a phenomenon known as “urban exploration” – trespassing in forbidden places to make photographs, explore history or — for some — experience the rush of hanging out in a prohibited environment.

The craft of urban exploration is not without danger – extreme danger. Earlier this month, 30-year-old Rebecca Bunting was swept into Pennypack Creek in Philadelphia and drowned while taking photographs in a storm drain during a flash flood. Her work was well known in the community on Instragram.

In one of her forays, Lampreich suffered a broken tailbone and other injuries when a staircase collapsed beneath her and a fellow explorer two years ago. She’s made it a practice to never explore alone.

“You go in these places and, a lot times, you don’t even have cell reception, and maybe people don’t even know where you are,” she  said. “Some people are that secretive that they don’t tell anybody except the group that they’re with where they’re going.

“A lot of us like to have the buddy system in case somebody falls and gets hurt, or worse.”

While there are potentially legal implications for those who publish photographs taken while trespassing, Lampreich says she and other explorers have it covered.

“A lot of people in the community make fake names for themselves,” she said. “We have our own code names, and tend to keep our real names private.”

Lampreich says her mother does like her pictures, but also wishes she would just stop exploring, especially since her accident.

You can see Chandra Lampreich’s work on Flicker and Hidden City.

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