Shared lost homes

By Margaux ColinMisch Pautsch Switch to French for original article

Putting on black clothes so as not to be noticed. Camera in one hand, torch in the other. And moving on, setting foot where perhaps no one has set foot for years. This is what urbex fans are looking for and doing, as they explain to the Lëtzebuerger Journal.

It is in the setting of the Rotondes, rich in its past as a shed and workshop for steam locomotives, that we meet Sunny (Name changed by the editors) to discuss urban exploration. A setting that lends itself perfectly to the subject. If these 19th century buildings (where we are sitting close by) had not been rehabilitated as a cultural venue, they would surely have been of interest to our interlocutor. As soon as we arrived, Sunny's inner photographer woke up and she took out her mobile phone to take a picture of this old building surrounded by vegetation, with some railway lines in the background. In real life, Sunny is a social worker and photography enthusiast. "One of my favourite subjects to photograph is abandoned places", she says.

This passion for abandoned places, whatever they may be, has found its name for several years, a contraction of the English word "urban exploration" which becomes more commonly known as urbex. This practice is not new but dates back to the 1990s, when it became popular in the United States. It works quite simply: all you have to do is find an abandoned place, originally built by man, and visit it. It is an approach that appeals to both the simply curious in search of adrenaline and those with a passion for photography. For Sunny, urbex does not stop at simply visiting an abandoned place, but this practice also has an informative dimension, "it is to document before it disappears". Many old buildings are demolished in Luxembourg, even though they are at the origin of the country's character. For the young woman, urbex becomes a way of documenting what is doomed to disappear in her country and of giving a voice to these neglected places, often associated with abandonment and oblivion, "which we usually don't find very pretty".

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