October 9, 2012

Urban exploration, Nude Self-portraits, and Me.

By Sarah Bloom

I began shooting self-portraits back in 2006 as part of a challenge to take a self-portrait every day for one whole year. I did two. Halfway through that second year, I discovered what is called “urban exploration,” which loosely defined means exploring abandoned and decaying buildings in urban environments and typically taking photos (though there are some who do it for the thrill alone and take no photos). “Urbex” photography was an entire niche I hadn’t known existed and I fell in love with it. I am fascinated by the history of places and I love looking at the things we leave behind as I try to piece together a story of what once was.

Burden of Proof
Shot in part of an abandoned coal breaker in rural Pennsylvania. I’ve noticed that I often find myself mimicking scenes and ideas from Charlie Chaplain’s “Modern Times” when faced with large machinery, thinking of the machine as an extension of myself. Feeling run down, yet tied to the inevitable passing of time.

It was only natural for me to shoot self-portraits in these environments, as that had already become my primary form of creative expression. Shooting nude made sense to me as an artist and a woman whose mother is an art historian. The nude figure in art is classic. Timeless. Human. I was soon to turn 40 years old when I began shooting urbex, and so ageing and aging as a woman was heavy on my mind. I was beginning to notice how my body was changing too. I became interested in exploring the similarites between myself and the abandoned, neglected, and decaying ruins in which I shot. There is an ongoing process for me of acceptance and fight in these photos. I struggle. I hurt. I am defiant at times. Nostalgic at times. Despondant sometimes too.


Reflections of the Way Things Used to Be

Shot in an abandoned warehouse in Detroit, Michigan. Reflections can always create a fascinating image for me, and in this photo I was very deliberate that I wanted to incorporate the reflection in this way. A reaching out to the past—the me I used to be—in both remembrance and farewell.   

I have shot in abandoned buildings and houses in Detroit, in Philadelphia and around Pennsylvania, and even once in England. There are World War II bunkers and tunnels in and around Dover that are abandoned I wish to explore, as well as the opportunity for structures far older than what can be found in the US.


Shot in an abandoned girls’ school in the countryside of Kent, United Kingdom. These windows were glorious. I shot several images I love right in front of those windows! A “supplication” is a prayer, a humble plea to a higher being, a request. I’m not Catholic and I’m not religious, but religious iconography and imagery as found in art throughout history has most certainly influenced me as an artist. Seeking humble acceptance of my life, my body, is something I struggle to do—to let go of that ‘prison’, it is one of my prayers to the Universe (my supplication).

I am very proud to have my upcoming trip to Enlgand be supported with a grant by SnapMy Life! I will be in the area of Kent for the week of October 15th, and a fellow urbexer who lives there has agreed to be my guide. I will be shooting new photos (both self-portraits and non self-portraits) exclusively for SnapMy Life in at least three different locations in and around Kent. I look forward to adding some stellar shots to my portfolio, so please subscribe to my photostream so you don’t miss out.

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