Rural Exploration (RurEx)

Tired of city madness? Taking a break from urban hysteria? Getting back in touch with your “inner nature”? Rurex may just be what the doctor ordered then!!
Probably not, though. Ha.

13937969_1216276101745521_6541282968772811661_o.jpgAs previously discussed ad-nauseaum, Urban Exploration (Urbex), literally refers to the collection of data on public areas of the urban landscape. Areas that have been neglected in whole or in part, for access and use. This is often done for an artistic purpose such as photography.
Like other forms of Urban Explorations then, Rural Exploration (a.k.a Rurex), is often a search of the abandoned or decrepit, only this time, in a more rustic environment. Usually an agricultural one.
This activity, derived from urban exploration, consists in infiltrating and visiting places that are time and again abandoned, while enjoying the tranquility of a bucolic environment.
chaufferie1The iconography of forgotten buildings is often a strong emotional vector. There is something about nature taking back its “rights”, slowly but surely invading man-made buildings and structures. “The power of nature, over man”, sort of speak.

Compared to its big brother Urban Exploration, Rural Exploration is much more marginal though.

At this time, let me pedantly offer a bit of context and lay some knowledge on your ass.
Demographically and economically, the years between 1800 and 1880 were the golden age of western agricultural development.
The following decades and the first half of the 20th century witnessed their gradual decline; the flight of the agricultural workers to towns, not to mention human losses of World War I, were the main culprits.
43117922_2069948469711609_8767775186133975040_oIn the early 1930’s, the western European urban population exceeded the population of the countryside for the first time. Agriculture, which still employed millions of people in the 1970’s, lost an additional 30% of its work force by the 80’s.
Nowadays, the slow transformation of those outlands into major industrial sites has resulted into deserted farms and hamlets, dwindling villages and small towns. Not to mention renovated “second homes” for city-slickers.
The new reality of our more “rustic” areas, is well summarized by this little snippet by P.J O’Rourke: “I live in rural New Hampshire, and we are, frankly, short on people who are black, gay, Jewish, and Hispanic. In fact, we’re short on people. My town has a population of 301.
Knowledge and appreciation of a slowly disappearing agricultural heritage and craft are thus some of Rurex’s main motivations.

corsicaRural exploration also offers a few distinct, practical advantages over “regular” Urbex

  • Rurex ordinarily exposes you to less legal risks then common Urbexing. Although the concept of trespassing is also a reality outside of urban areas, the notion is generally much blurrier and a certain tolerance is customarily observed.
  • Urban ruins are often inhabited by squatters. Some of them are harmless, while others…not so much. Rural locations? Between rarely and never.
  • For those noisy Urbexers amongst us, Rural Exploration can generally be much louder. Discretion, although still important, is not as paramount.
  • Rurex is often a calm and stress free experience, allowing for time and concentration. A rare luxury, granting a moment for well framing your shots and careful composition… if you’re a photographer like me, that is…
  • Since Rurex will often be practiced in the day time, and that most place are readily accessible, the lighting conditions will generally be much better. Time to decrease those noisy ISO settings !!

Rurex places of interest include farms, agricultural cooperatives, silos, houses, cemeteries and pretty much any other man made structure to be found in the middle of nowhere… in Europe especially, be on the lookout for castles or beautiful gentry houses. In the US, notably near deserts, there are many ghost towns worth a trip.

Sociologically, agrarian areas have generally stayed more religious then their metropolitan counterpart. Given the co-dependence of natives on one another, the social ties brought about by religion remained much stronger, for much longer. They are thus many religious relics to be found. Small chapels left to rot in the middle of the woods, forgotten statues near cross road, Crucifixes in the weirdest places…Always be on the lookout for those abundant religious artefacts.

egliseOn the safety side, a special mention to construction components often used in rural area. The buildings are oftentimes made of “natural” material, such as wood or clay, which, with time, become much more fragile than metal or cement.

A final issue is wardrobe. As mentioned in a previous article, I usually dress in a way to blend in, when out Urbexing… Not for Rurex though, and especially if I am operating during hunting season, I wear bright fucking colors!!…see and be seen, is now the name of the game!!

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