At some point, most photographers are faced with the difficult choice between trespassing into a restricted area to take an amazing photograph or respecting those boundaries by trying to gain entry through legitimate means or moving on.
In this short film from the The New York Times, urban photographer Victor G. Thomas explains why he views “Do Not Enter” signs as green lights for exploration:
UrbExing is the practice of infiltrating restricted urban areas, such as subway tunnels and private rooftops in search of adventure and beautiful and interesting scenes to photograph. For brave yet smart explorers like Thomas, UrbExing provides access to city views that are far beyond the general public’s reach; his work, then, has become focused around symbolically bringing the masses with him on his adventures.
“I know I trespass, but I don’t want to necessarily call it that. It’s just like more of artistic conquest,” said Thomas. “I feel like I’m liberating the views. [They’re] something that every New Yorker should be able to see but they can’t see because not everyone has the money and not everyone has the understanding of how to get into these locations… [I’m like] the Robin Hood of photography.”
After each conquest, Thomas posts new images to his website and Instagram account, where he has amassed an audience of more than 20,000 followers.
Thomas and several other UrbExers have been arrested for trespassing before. In Bate’s “Vic Invades” documentary, Thomas explains how getting caught shook him up and caused him to abandon UrbExing for a time. Ultimately, however, nothing could keep him away.
“I feel like I was born to be an adventurer. It’s something that’s just in me, you know? It’s in my blood.”
What do you think of UrbExing? Are Thomas and his crew simply trespassing, or is his work—even the part that includes finagling their way into restricted areas—a form of art? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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