A Photo for Friday: “Old Stairs”

Welcome to Friday.


“Old Stairs”
November 21, 2018
Birmingham, AL

FILED UNDER: Photo for Friday, Photography
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. de stijl says:


    Are you an urban explorer? How did you get this (and previous) Ruin Porn shots?

    I’m [ahem] asking for a friend. Because getting nailed on a BS trespassing charge might be dicey for a professor, just sayin’.

    My [clears throat] friend is stickler on following strict Sierra Club rules* with one caveat – if you need to make an – let’s call it an unsanctioned “manufactured” ingress, you may, under very strict rules as long as the property is clearly abandoned and utterly unmaintained, but you need to replace any chain or lock that might have been “damaged.” Leave a note, pass the hat and leave cash for replacement cost, or both. So I’ve heard, anyway.

    Underground spaces are fascinating. Beneath many urban downtowns are caverns of intrigue and raw beauty (as long as you are sporting appropriate gear and up-to-date inoculations).

    Throwing a massive party in the man-made old-school beer chilling / storing caves dug into the bluffs along the river south of St. Paul, and impersonating city workers to haul in generators and amps and gear would be criminally irresponsible, but *really* fucking cool.

    So I’ve heard, anyway.

    (* Sierra Club rules are: “take only pictures, leave only footprints”)

  2. @de stijl: This photo is from the Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, AL, which is open to the public (in all its urban decay glory).

    Indeed, everything that I have shot has been in a publicly accessible (if not explicitly open to the public) location.

  3. de stijl says:

    Modified Urban Explorer Sierra Club rules would be:

    * Don’t be a dick.
    * If you need to clip a chain or lock to get in, replace it, or leave replacement cash with a note stating your intent. (Do your homework and scout ahead!)
    * This place is the rightful property of someone, even if they don’t care about it anymore. The city, the county, the IRS, some trust or receivership, a dude holding it because of the location and the hope of a future buy-out offer. Be utterly respectful and as lawful as possible.
    * Don’t be a dick (this cannot be repeated enough!)
    * Don’t touch anything but the ground with your soles of your boots.
    * Don’t take anything! (except pics)

    * (and then a whole bunch of things you need to do to practically prepare. You also need to prepare for possibly being arrested or being asked for a bribe. Carrying a pre-printed statement laying out your actions and intent on this date at this place, etc.)

    So I’ve been told, anyway.

  4. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    everything that I have shot has been in a publicly accessible (if not explicitly open to the public) location.

    I hear you. [wink]

    Take a walk on the side. All the cool kids are doing it!

    This is outside of your purview, but I actually find the “why” question very interesting.

    Why do people respond as they do to Ruin Porn photos?


    Why do some people search out derelict abandoned places for pleasure?

    This impulse ticks a lot of boxes for a many people.

  5. @de stijl: Your question is interesting, I suppose the most simplistic answer is that they are visually interesting. What more could a photographer want?

    I am not sure I could give a fully satisfactory answer to the general question of what motivates my photography in general, let alone the specific subjects. It has to do with capturing a moment in time, as well as something that is visually attractive or remarkable caught from a perspective that one might not have noticed otherwise. The urban decay stuff (I will confess to not thinking in terms of “ruin porn”) accentuates the time element–it reminds one of what was (and what will be) as well as being a very unique moment in the development of the location. It is the past interacting with the now (especially the lighting, the dust and debris, etc.).

  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    I like that.

  7. @Michael Reynolds: Which is all I can hope for 🙂