Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sleepycity - urban exploration

Cities are full of left-over places, abandoned places, places that people aren’t really meant to go to but can be reached by the suitably determined.  These places are very attractive to a certain sort of person – people who are just plain curious about the cities around them – who then explore these urban environments to see what can be found when we peel back the skin of the city. 

Sleepycity is the photo blog of one such group of explorers who combine insatiable curiosity with a taste for high-class photography.  The result is a collection of fabulous images that underline the strangeness, the otherworldliness, of places that are just below, over, or beside the commonplace world we live in.  The result is something like a modern fairy story, the old kind of fairy stories where they steal children rather than sip tea from buttercup blossoms: they too were about magical worlds that were always nearby, but just out of reach.

I won’t do more here than scratch the surface of their collection to encourage you to go there and see for yourself.

The now undergrounded River Fleet in London

Atop a bridge in New York

An abandoned NASA rocket test-firing site

Apart from a wonderful store of images that could help illustrate a game, the nature of these urban explorers is also very interesting.  Insatiably curious people are the fundamental kind of character for a Lovecraft story, indeed any kind of “investigative” tale.  Of course, in any of these stories the curious people are liable to find more than they bargain for (in Lovecraft’s work, being curious is almost a death sentence).

Perhaps a group of such explorers has learned of something terrible in their city and are now being hunted down; the characters have to find these people, learn why they are being picked off and put an end to it.  No easy task when both the hunters and the hunted are so adept at not being caught!  Alternatively, perhaps such a group of explorers are a source of information for the characters, telling them how to access parts of the city that may be off—limits to others.

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