I reckon Pye-Obsessed may sum up the next moderator you’re going to read more about below, this month Matt aka Muddy Funkster takes the hot seat…..
1). Tell us a little about yourself
I’m Matt from Reading, a teenager who’ll be 42 this year. I loved the thrill exploring gave me as a child, getting away from my parents house and learning every inch of the nearby woods and any farm out-buildings that we could gain access to. The years passed and life’s new responsibilities meant you leave the total freedoms of childhood far behind. A few years ago I decided to do something radical and so I gave caving a go and during my first proper trip into the depths of a Welsh system, those feelings of wonder and excitement were remembered in an instant.
One of the most impressive things I have seen underground. The Courtesan is a stalactite around 1.5m long made of pure white calcite. It is also covered in a profusion of helectites, smaller formations that grow at crazy angles, often in curls and twists. It will have taken possibly tens of thousands of years to get this big, it’s incredibly fragile and standing next to it makes you quite nervous in case you trip. I like the fact that in hundreds or even thousands of years time a distant relative of mine could return to this spot and see virtually the same scene, testament to the age of the earth and the insignificance of humans in the life span of a planet.
Being a keen photographer already, I was frustrated that caving was such a difficult hobby to shoot without huge risk to your kit, having lost an SLR and 2 compacts to it already. Then one day a friend (MDE) suggested we take a look at a place called the National Gas Turbine Establishment which he had done some research into, said it looked like it might be quite a fun day out where we could take our cameras. It kind of snowballed fairly quickly after that.
UE has been a revelation to me, if I am into something I tend to get quite into it but this is to a whole new level. Fundamentally I think humans have the need to explore written into thier DNA. Something has gone seriously wrong in our society when celebrity and things like reality TV is given so much prominence and yet people with an interest in things like history and heritage, who go out and act upon those interests are looked at as odd or somehow subversive.
2). Red or green?
Green. The green of the countryside. When I do occasionally make it down to Wales, nothing beats the vast expanse of green that surrounds you in the Valleys. Must make it back down again soon as UE kind of put a stop to my caving, so little time!
3). You’re in Pyestock, about to pack up to leave and as you glance out the window, you see a SWAT team coming towards you….. what do you do?
Stop boshing the LSD! I guess if it we’re an actual real SWAT team then I would have to use my Pye knowledge to escape or eliminate the threat, can’t have military types cutting down on my photographic me time. I’d maybe hide inside a boiler on the lower levels of the Air House or lead them through Cell 4 and once they were all inside jam the doors and use the emergency start button to obliterate them in a 2000mph wind!
I seem to have gained a little bit of a rep with some people with being a bit OTT on Pyestock.. well I guess it’s true, I did become a little obsessed. In my defence I live 25 mins drive from the site and it is a unique place and being obsessed is just part of my nature so there. Seriously though, I’m over it now
4). Where was you first explore and can you tell us a little about it?
Before we did Pye, we practised on a small derelict school in my home town of Reading. We were pretty damn scared as we looked for a way in, finding it on a flat roof through a broken skylight. The builders had stripped it already and all that was left were the floorboards with large drops beneath. Pretty rubbish location really but it served its purpose and when we went over the fence at the NGTE a few weeks later the fear factor was more manageable.
5). Exploring, Photography, Socialising, Cat & Mouse, Research. Put these UE elements in order of personal importance.
The social side of UE has become more important to me as time goes on, I have met some great people through it and my circle of close friends must have doubled from 2 to 4
I get such a rush from getting home and seeing how the images have come out that a close second must be the photography. The exploration itself and research are great but are a little way behind the first two. Getting chased by security is pretty funny as well and makes for great discussions in the car afterwards.
6). Tell us about your funniest/scariest urban exploration experience
Not too scary but this had us concerned for a while. We did the museum part of ECVB as our first stop after driving off the ferry. We climbed in through a broken pane and started shooting. After an hour inside two out of three of us heard loud shouting from the floor above, where MDE had just been busted and DNZ had left his camera bag on the floor. The guy grabbed his bag and passed it to a colleague who took it outside and then we were screwed. We all came out and asked him what was going to happen and could we have the bag back. "We wait for the police" he said. Once they arrived he was radioed and we were led outside. The 5 waiting police spread us against a fence, a brief body and bag search and then lots of indistinguishable conversation. Some scare tactics ensued and talk of PIR sensors in the main hall, names in a ‘register’ and then released. Not the best start to our Belgium tour! As we were escorted off the site one of the officers told me "You are lucky it was site security that caught you first, if we had to come inside looking for you, we don’t know who you are and would have come in with our guns drawn. How would it make you feel taking a picture, there is shouting next to you, you look around and a gun is being pointed at you?" LOL "Not very good" I said!
7). What are your urban exploration plans for 2013?
This year has got off to a great start already with three new locations, a permission visit and my final trip into Pyestock. We are heading back to Belgium and Luxembourg for 4 days in about a months time. Besides that I have a few pretty cool and unusual permission visits in the pipeline like a disused TV studio or that Russian sub that’s been doing the rounds. It’s all going to be fantastic!
8). What’s in your kitbag and what is next on your wishlist?
Canon 7D, Canon 10-22mm Ultrasonic, Canon 24-70 L Series, Sigma 30mm prime and Canon 50mm Prime. I am trying not to look at other kit for the moment, I want to be satisfied with what I’ve got and not knowing too much about full frame etc.. serves that purpose well. Plus I’m loving the results the 7D is giving me
9). Who are your favourite photographers, urbex and non urbex? (could provide links to flickr etc.. so people can see some inspirational work)
There are so many but here is a few of my all time favs from Flickr.
REZ http://www.flickr.com/photos/30552994@N04/ Was on James list too, I’ve loved his work for quite a while now.
MARTIN WIDLUND http://www.flickr.com/photos/29591209@N06/ Produces a really high standard of UE work.
ROBBIE SHONE http://www.flickr.com/photos/robbieshone/ An adventure tog who gets paid to take truly stunning images
STEVE SHARP http://www.flickr.com/photos/steve-sharp/ A good friend and pretty good cave photographer too.
LED EDDIE http://www.flickr.com/photos/lededdie/ Probably the most talented light artist around.
MANSOUR ALI http://www.flickr.com/photos/mansour-ly/ Libyan travel tog, shoots his homeland with stunning results.
BLUE FIN ART http://www.flickr.com/photos/20966211@N03/ Rod leads the field in a very over subscribed field of photography.
10). Your favourite 3 photos (of your own) and why you seem to like them more than anyone else.
Boy climbing a wall in Jaisalmer, India.
I have always considered this to be one of my best shots, it was taken at very short notice as I watched from a cafe as four boys used this climb up as a short cut around a large wall, I managed to race across, get the camera ready and get the shot as the last boy climbed over. It’s not that sharp as it’s a scan from slide film but I have always liked it for the spontaneous way it was taken.
Taken in Mandalay, Burma in 1996, I was relaxed to the point of not needing to put on some false grin for the camera, thanks largely to this crowd of awesome kids. It’s one of the only shots of me I really like. A very happy memory.
I consider ‘Explore’ to be my strongest UE image. Shot in a very popular location it’s a stitch of multiple shots with lots of PP to get everything realigned (whole tower was leaning to the left after the stitch). Took bloody ages to produce and once complete gave me that rush you get when you feel you’ve produced a winner. The reality being, although I thought it was great, it didn’t really register on Flickr.
11). Canon V’s Nikon. Discuss.
I don’t really go in for all that mines better than yours stuff. I think from my limited knowledge that both brands and a few others do extremely good jobs at rendering stunning images. I have always used Canon and it’s what I know, although on a recent permission visit hearing the Nikon rattle off what seemed to be a lot of preprogrammed brackets did pique my interest.
12). What if the Hokey Cokey REALLY is what it’s all about?
What!!! What kind of bloody ridiculous question is that? I’m turning around as I write this! Ra Ra Ra!
13). The apocalypse is coming, you have found a secret underground cave that will withstand every disaster and provides water and some weird fungus which will meet every nutritional need. There is room for your family, and for ten others. What professions would you use to fill the remaining spaces?
Cave rescue expert
Mixed Martial Arts Pro (to keep order and too protect our little camp from intruders)
Top Chef (one good with fungi)
An award winning nanny (yes you can have too much kids time)
Raconteur (one with lots of stories to tell)
Survivalist (see if Ray Mears wants to survive the apocalypse)
Musician (must be good all rounder)
Doctor (must come with lots of plasters etc..)
Engineer (good at fixing light sources)
Robbie Shone (to capture our time underground)
Thanks Matt for your answers, really cool to see some of your non-urbex images too