“I’ve frozen in fear many times,” says urban exploration photographer Michelle LaCavalier, known on Flickr as ManicMelange Photography. “I’ve experienced extreme heights, evading police or security, squatters, scrappers; you name it, I’ve seen it all.”
“The only thing that gets me through is when I know whatever is waiting for me on the other side is a gem to shoot,” she says.
Michelle’s passion for photographing abandoned and decayed buildings stems from her fascination with human behavior and how people live.
“Going into these buildings that have so much history [and] being able to stand in a spot where so many other people before me have made memories, to touch the things these people have touched, just makes me feel more alive,” she says. “It’s incredible.”
Michelle says urban exploration is a lot about who you know and what those people know. It isn’t easy for her to get access into many buildings. And, as a female, it’s often unsafe for her to go alone.
“I do my own research about the buildings,” Michelle says. “If the location has a history and a story, then I seek someone who can either tell me how to get in or go with someone who can get me in. It’s a rush to be one of the first photographers in a new space. But as a rule, it’s always smart to have someone with you.”
Michelle readily admits she’s a “touch-everything type of girl” who likes to get the whole experience inside these abandoned buildings. Dangers and unexpected surprises are part of the deal.
“Every step I take has to be slow and focused,” Michelle says. “Floors have soft spots and you can fall straight through. You always have to be careful of rusty nails, glass chards, dirty needles.”
Michelle has also encountered a fair share of health hazards inside the locations she visits. Many are dangerous to breathe, such as asbestos, mold, chemicals and animal droppings. To protect herself, she often wears gas masks and respirators which she often incorporates in her shots.
One of Michelle’s favorite locations to shoot are hospital and psychiatric insane asylums.
“The people that suffered, got better, healed, passed away, it’s all there,” she says. “It’s all in the walls, there’s always patient records laying around, you can actually read about someone and see their entire life. I love it.”
Michelle’s goal is to reconnect her viewers emotionally to these buildings, that are left behind when people move on, and breathe life into them again.
“I consider my photography a method of storytelling,” Michelle says. “To document that these buildings are still interesting, important and full of answers is my passion. When people react to my images with curiosity, questions or fascination, it’s worth every danger I encounter. It’s the ultimate accomplishment.”
Visit Michelle’s photostream to see more of her photography.
To see more urban explorations, check out Jose Vazquez’s story.
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