By: Caleb Neelon
Dan Haga and Dan Ayers are Urban Atrophy, a team of Baltimore-based explorers looking for the perfectly abandoned. With a take-nothing-but-pictures-and-leave-nothing-but-footprints ethic, their missions have taken them over and under fences surrounding disused psychiatric hospitals, missile silos, jails, and churches, among other places. There’s a small community of people who are serious urban explorers, following the same ethic – no stealing, no vandalism, leave it the way you found it, and, just as important, leave your good spots a mystery to others.
"I find a lot of locations that catch my interest by browsing aerial images of Baltimore city," Dan Haga says. "Over time, I’ve gotten the eye for it. The next step is to figure out what it is—or what it was. After figuring out an address, things like tax records can tell a lot: its previous owners, descriptions of the property—things like that. You don’t want to wander into an abandoned place without knowing what hazards to watch out for—there’s a reason these things are fenced up. I also like to like to research the history and find historic photos so that I can compare what it looked like new, to what it might look like now."Trespassing, of course, is an equal opportunity crime, which means that the team often encounters a wandering wino, mischief-maker, or fellow explorer. "When we think security is onto us or just in the area, we try not to just take off running, since that attracts the most attention possible,” says Haga. “We usually try to make our way to a dark tunnel in the basement or some other creepy place a lone guard is unlikely to check. Then we just wait it out a while and either leave or continue exploring."
Why bother, though? "Being in an abandoned place is like being in another world, a surreal dream where all the people just disappeared and left everything behind,” says Haga. “You know that these places were once crowded and noisy with people, but now these buildings lie silent and dying – power plant, jail, church, sanitarium, whatever it was. You can’t help but wonder things. What did the men running this machinery like to joke about on their lunch break as the asbestos filled air ripped years away from them? What did the prisoner in this cell think as he sat on death row, and what had he done to get there? How many children passed thru this morgue? What are the worst sins people begged forgiveness of at this altar? There is just so much more to these places than concrete and wood."
Name: Dan Haga
Location: Reisterstown, MD
Bio: I have been a curious explorer since childhood but it wasn't until 2005 that I really got serious about photographing abandoned and off-limits places. In June, 2005 I received a camera as a gift and quickly discovered that my favorite thing to photograph was old buildings. I have since been exploring sites of interest all over the Maryland area.
You won't find me hopping fences and sneaking around buildings much anymore but I am still an explorer at heart. After my daughter was born I just don't have time to spend entire weekends seeking out the next abandonment anymore. These days I find my way into abandoned buildings while working on construction and architectural rehabilitation projects at work. Not as exciting but it fits my schedule and is a good way to access those hard to get into places.
I work in laser scanning, CAD, 3d modeling and animation. Civil, mechanical, medical, defense, automotive, industrial, entertainment, criminal... There aren't many fields I haven't worked in. I also run my own side business as a glamour photographer.
Other interests include working on stuff, graphics, web design, rock music, guns, vodka, and my lovely wife and daughter.
Always looking to meet new people. Here are a few of the many ways you can stalk me:
Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/102417807661667290264/posts
Deviant Art: http://spookydan.deviantart.com/
Model Mayhem: http://www.modelmayhem.com/87200
Name: Dan Ayers
Location: Joppa, MD
Bio: I grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore exploring my rural surroundings with my brothers. Moving to Baltimore, not surprisingly, opened my eyes to a whole new level of abandonment and urban decay. I discovered a fascination for exploring and photographing the countless buildings left behind to slowly rot away.
I find myself on an extended hiatus from the hobby after taking a short swim in the sparkling waters of the Patapsco for the Fort Carroll / Jurassic Park photo set. Working as a project manager for a busy civil engineering firm, endless remodeling of my house and planning a wedding with my fiance Carrie tend to take up most of my time. I do, however, look forward to my eventual return.