A View with an Urban Photographer (Urbexer)
RDC: We have known about Fiona for a while now. She is, some what of a Sheffield phenomena, with an almost third sense of where the local street artist will be hooking up next and an intuition for what might be an empty building in need of an explore. We met up with Fiona and an accompanying artist for the day CoLor, in an empty building just outside of the city for a spray and a wander (more pics to come in future posts of that).
We dusted down a bench which was splattered with pigeon poo and had a chat...
RDC: Great to finally meet you Fiona, could you tell us where are you from and where do you live now please?
I'm Sheffield UK born and bred, grew up in the sticks surrounded by mining communities, but have lived in the south of the city pretty much from leaving school.
RDC: What media are you into?
I'm an urban photographer/explorer. Or an urbex, which is the name it's known by now!
RDC: How did your interest in urban art and urban exploration begin?
I've always had a passive interest in art, but really wasn't aware of graffiti locally or anywhere else. My son bought a book of Banksy's work, I liked it but said I would rather go and see his stuff than look at it in a book.
Around that time we were walking on Sharrowvale Road near the city centre when we saw 2 huge murals in an alleyway on gable ends of shops. Beautiful surreal images with an octopus and a strange looking figure riding on a bird. I thought it was amazing, but obviously a one off.
Some time later I was travelling to work, part of my bus journey takes me up West Street. A new apartment building was in the early stages of construction and through the girders I could see something black and white on the building behind. eventually curiosity got the better of me and I went to have a look. Corny as it sounds, it was a life changing moment.
I came home started searching on the internet, found out this artist
was called Phlegm and that he was based in Sheffield, found some pics of other works he had done in abandoned buildings and a new obsession/ hobby was born, that was about 4 years ago.
RDC: In what way does Sheffield inspire your work?
Much as Phlegm was my 'first' so to speak, he is by no means the only artist in Sheffield. I have learned that there is a real burgeoning art/graff scene in Sheffield and it has become my mission to capture as much of it as I can. I've met some fantastic people and I'm constantly inspired by the levels and diversity of the creativity that surround us in this city.
RDC: Can you give us a quick list of artists you have hooked up with over the years?
I've met number of artists while doing this, mostly just bumping into them while out and about rather than organised meets.
Artists/ Writers including, in alphabetical order
As you know there was the special time earlier this year when a certain hotel was accessible, I met a few of these people there and I bumped into CoLor there several times because he did so many pieces, Skint I already knew, that's why they were my first choice for the meet with yourself.
RDC: What photographic equipment are you using at present and do you find using the flash mode in dark places effects your pictures end result?
I use a compact bridge digital camera, mid range and am getting a bad habit of upgrading every 12- 18 months, because the technology is moving so fast. I had an SLR camera for years, but don't feel the need to lug all the gear around now, when I can get such good results without it. Plus, some of the places I end up it's not a sensible option, when climbing over fences and walls etc. my ninja skills are not what they were.
I try not to use flash if I can help it when in buildings as it usually reflects badly off paint, but I would use it rather than not get a shot. I'm terribly bad for not using a tripod, when I should, sometimes using flash will compensate for that. Sharpness can be more of an issue in low light situations, but can be quite atmospheric.
RDC: Have you ever had an instance where you wished you hadn't ventured into an abandoned building?
Our worst urban experience was quite recently in an old mill in Bradford, the only access was on the second or third floor and was in pitch darkness, the area of the building we were in was fire damaged and water damaged. Even with torches we couldn't see clearly, I was heading towards a less dark area when I nearly fell through a hole in the floor, we tried another direction and could feel the floor starting to give, so tried another direction and my husband's foot went straight through the floorboards, at which point, I decided enough was enough and we beat a hasty retreat!
RDC: Do you prefer running shoes of big boots when you're urbexing?
When we first started urbexing, we were woefully ill equipped. On a summers day we had a little wander around the more derelict areas of Sheffield and found our way into a derelict building through a broken panel in a door. When I say ill equipped, I was wearing a long flowing skirt and flip flops. The floor was littered with all manner of unpleasant things including used needles. We had no idea whether there was anything to see in the building , so you can imagine our excitement when we found this . see attachment . And that was how I 'discovered' Rocket01, with this collaboration with Phlegm. As we squeezed our way back out of the building I patted my clothes down, knocking off dust etc. and noticed a taxi driver looking at me like I was just returning from servicing a trick! It was one hell of a buzz, getting in the building and finding something hidden, we were hooked.
Sturdy footwear is so important, I've pulled nails and shards of glass out of my shoes before, the biggest fear of course is used needles, sadly part for the course, thick hard soles win!
RDC: Would you like to big-up anyone?
I'd love to big up all the talented writers and artists I've met and to Real Hate Crew, NU, TCM and WSK, for getting out there and doing the business that keeps me busy!
RDC: Cool, thank-you for the chat, lets carry on and explore this building (more on that in a later post)...
Look at more of Fiona's images... HERE