Wide angle urban exploration

During one of my recent short walks from a train station to a nearby cafe, I chanced upon a stretch of abandoned residential flats. It had been a while since I last did urban decay photography and the thought of exploring these flats got me and my friends excited. Therefore, after some planning and gathering an adequate number of people we made our way into these abandoned buildings and started shooting. This was the perfect opportunity for me to exercise my wide angle compositional skills, something that I do not do frequently enough. I brought along the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 7-14mm PRO lens for this particular shoot.

After some research, I found out that the buildings were abandoned about a year ago and the residents have been relocated to another low cost residential housing project. A new development has been planned for this particular piece of land and these abandoned buildings will be completely demolished. From my observation, the buildings retained sound structural integrity with no visible cracks on the walls or floors and it was perfectly safe to explore (I am a qualified civil engineer). Since the flats were only recently abandoned, water has not seeped into the interiors and no damage or growth of plants was observed inside. The flats were still very clean and in good condition, with no odor and no mosquito infestation problems.

Knowing that this was a low cost residential area, the rooms were small and to work with tight spaces, the M.Zuiko 7-14mm PRO lens did the trick. I do not shoot landscapes, architecture or interior shots much, making the 7-14mm my least used lens in the arsenal. However, every time I find a need to use the 7-14mm, it never fails to impress me. The technical flaws are well controlled and I love how the images have a certain look that I cannot get with longer lenses. I shot most of these images at the 7mm end for maximum coverage and stopped down to F4 or F5.6 to maximize depth of field.

Exploring the abandoned units was an interesting and new experience for me. I was able to observe the remnants of past lives in the flats. The decaying furniture or whatever that was left in the interiors told numerous stories and just begged to be photographed. These buildings housed a lively and vibrant community of lower income earners in Kuala Lumpur for over 40 years. Based on the current state of the buildings, I could still sense the presence of such a tight knit community. It was indeed sad to see such a beautiful place being condemned to demolition to make way for newer developments. I guess this cannot be avoided since Kuala Lumpur is an ever-changing and constantly expanding city.

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II  and M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens are available from B&H

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Images and content copyright Robin Wong 2018 onwards. All rights reserved

Comments

  1. There’s always something about the absence of people in a place meant for living, on whatever scale, that cues a note of nostalgia.

    If you have the time, take a look at some of the work done by John Griggs: https://www.flickr.com/photos/teamgriggs/albums/.

    Hit the “albums” tab, then scroll down to “Throwing Klotz” and “Breaking Nick”, a couple of collections centered on abandoned industrial sites. The first was shot with an early Olympus M4/3 camera and explores a long defunct silk spinning mill. This one done with the current owner’s consent. Most are in the usual urbex stealth fashion. His later collections centered on rural residences — now abandoned but filled with memoeries of the people who lived there — are stellar.

  2. The colors and your compositions are very nice!

  3. Victor Mai says:

    Hi Robin
    At least there is still a Copi Tiam at the corner in your shot.Is it serving drinks.
    Like to visit these buildings. Good job

  4. Lovely shots! There’s a vibrancy about them, despite the melancholy of the buildings you have photographed. Great work! 🙂

    • Robin Wong says:

      I always liked vibrant photos, maybe that influenced the overall look of the images presented here. Thanks for the kind words!

  5. Oh, Robin Wong does #urbex ! Excellent and always good to see you explore boundaries and grow your comfort zone. Yes, one of my favs is an ultra wide for such shots – sadly I don’t do much urbex – not as fit healthwise and scaredy cat of infringements. Some of it is not as interesting – just like shooting ultra wide per se is not the focus of photography – it comes down to content, communicating the visual message

    • Robin Wong says:

      Thanks Ananda. These apartment complex was quite safe. Structurally the building is still sound, and as long as you travel in group, it should be ok. The only concern is stray dogs making the place their territory. It was not physically demanding at all, imagine walking up an apartment (you don’t have to explore all the floors, just pick the ones following your instincts). Let me know if you are interested, I can bring you there if it is still around when you are back to KL.

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