Getting into places..

Discussion in 'Digital Discussion & Q&A' started by JL385, Aug 9, 2017.

  1. JL385

    JL385 TPF Noob!

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    Question: How do photographers obtain legal access to places that are "off-limits" to general public. I am going back home in October and I would like to visit Centralia, Pa. Its a old town that has been abandoned because of an underground mine fire. Do you contact the police department / city hall (of the bordering town?) and ask for permission? I assume they would want you to have insurance to cover you if you get hurt, maybe even sign a wavier? I'm just looking for the proper professional way to do what i would like to do. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.


     
  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I would start with the local municipal offices; they may or may not be the place, but they should be able to direct you to the right place. Often it does take a bit of digging, and sometimes you really can't find an answer... things have been boarded up, 'No Trespassing' signs posted for so long that everyone forgets why or who, and the records have disappeared...
     
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  3. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    It would certainly help if you were an established journalist with some particular "angle" on a potential story to tell that also needs photographs. It's not as if this place hasn't already been photographed, so just being a photo enthusiast will probably not be enough.

    Places such as abandoned factories or warehouses are dangerous in many ways, so whoever owns the building (or insures it) will not be anxious to let someone prowl the premises just out of curiosity. If you get hurt in there, who is going to be responsible?
     
  4. Gary A.

    Gary A. Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Find the owner. It most likely be the county, but it could also be the company that owns the mine. Generally, you have to give/have a good reason to be allowed to to enter a place which is 'Off Limits'. Do not tell them "I want to take some pictures". Do tell them something along the lines of "I am a documentarian". Assuming you are not a documentarian or a credentialed member of the media and that you want to go because you just want to take some photos of an abandoned site ... (don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking pictures of an abandoned site. If I was in PA I'd want to go with you.) The more and better the BS the better your odds of success.

    Hooking up with a small paper and getting them to use your Centralia story would be a great cover and you'd get published. Another angle is to find a former resident ... Centralia then and now thing. There are a lot of ways to get in.
     
  5. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I disagree, Gary. In my former occupation(s) various people would lie to me, and when they did, I lost any tendency toward showing lenience. Quite the opposite.
     
  6. FotosbyMike

    FotosbyMike No longer a newbie, moving up!

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  7. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    We had a similar situation here in town. Many years ago our steel plant that had been in operation for a 100 years closed. The years took a toll on the buildings, and they became a gold mine of opportunity for photographers. However not only was it off limits because of the dangers, but there was still limited security in place, who would prosecute trespassers when caught. Over the years a very limited number of people were allowed in, until finally one by one the buildings were demolished. Sadly I was one of those who didn't make it.
     
  8. Gary A.

    Gary A. Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Looks like it is open for business. If you plan to spend a long time there, I'd check in with the local authorities (police) and just let them know who you are, what you're doing and that you will be respectful of the No Trespassing signs. They may give you some tips on photo ops and in the best case scenario they may even help you around the No Trespassing signs. (Remember you're a documentarian, lol.)
     
  9. Destin

    Destin Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Is Centralia actually illegal? I've been there multiple times and there are always a ton of people walking around it. I've never seen posted signs or anything, or heard of anyone getting in trouble for being there.

    It's technically public property and still a town.. there are warning signs about the dangers of sink holes and such, but that's about it. A few people still lived there as recently as 4-5 years ago.
     
  10. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    My preference is usually that it is more effective to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
     
  11. Destin

    Destin Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    In life I agree. As a hobbyist I agree.

    But if you're doing photography as a business, I don't think I'd use this method.
     
  12. waday

    waday Do one thing every day that scares you Supporting Member

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    I'm assuming Graffiti Highway is one place you want to visit? That's the abandoned highway. PennDOT has started to crack down on trespassers there. If you do encounter an officer, be nice and you'll probably just be told to move on.

    If I remember correctly, they either did or were planning on attempting to make it more difficult to access Graffiti Highway.
     

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