From Tokyo to Los Angeles and every major developed city in-between, architecture has become either a bland utility of daily life or otherwise a novelty that is here today and gone tomorrow. Apart from certain buildings deemed to have a major historic value (often for sociological rather than architectural reasons), it is becoming increasingly fashionable and more importantly profitable to demolish old structures and put up new ones without much consideration for the architectural legacies of the past.
Of course, not all old buildings are beautiful. Some were incredibly ugly when they were new and have only become more so with age. But in the instance of both the beautiful and neglected as well as the ugly and abandoned, there is now a way for ordinary people around the world to experience the surreal majesty of abandoned buildings without having to take the obvious risks of exploring them in person.
Urban exploration or Urbex is the phenomenon of treating derelict and abandoned buildings or other urban infrastructure in the way that an archaeologist would treat an ancient ruin. But far from being a science, urban exploration is instead something of an art. The phenomenon of exploring abandoned buildings in order to observe their decay, document their fading glory and occasionally see if such places are as scary as horror films would lead one to believe is not a new concept. But what is new is the ability to document such explorations in high quality video on a budget that does not require the backing of a Hollywood style production company or publicly funded broadcaster.
Of the many young Urbex photographers making waves online, The Proper People are a personal favourite. The Proper People are the team of Bryan and Michael, two friends who are avid urban explorers. Their collective name derives from a sign posted on an abandoned building they once explored. The sign read: “ACCESS PROHIBITED – EXCEPT BY THE PROPER PEOPLE”. Since then, Bryan and Michael have used this title as their brand.
The first video on the Proper People channel was posted in 2014 and since then both Bryan and Michael have got better and better. From fairly humble beginnings, the team continue to explore as a duo whilst occasionally inviting other explorers along with them, but the artistic quality of the imagery The Proper People produce has grown leaps and bounds over the last five years.
The more recent Proper People videos are one part cinematic and one part personal. The key to the aesthetic qualities of the videos and photos is the fact that over the years, Bryan and Michael have become instinctively good photographers and videographers. At the same time, the videos remain true to their roots as realistic documentaries of two people exploring buildings in which anything could happen (and sometimes does happen). The combination of artistic integrity and authentic spontaneity is what makes The Proper People different from explorers merely walking around with a selfie stick or worse yet, those mocking everything they see.
Both Bryan and Michael are deeply respectful of the places they are exploring. In an effort to curtail vandalism, when The Proper People explore locations that have not yet been widely exposed as hangouts for vandals, vagrants and less professional urban explorers, they conceal the location which they are exploring so as to afford other genuinely curious explorers the opportunity to see buildings that have not been overly molested by scrappers or vandals.
Since discovering The Proper People last month, I’ve been hooked on their videos. In addition to uploading their videos, the duo now sell high quality prints of the still images taken at buildings they explore.
For those who like adventure without the vulgarity and for those interested in architecture as explored by those with a keen eye for the surreal, the decrepit and the unique, The Proper People truly live up to their name.