Interviewed by Tenacious B
This months guest of the month is one of my personal favourites! This guy has been all over the world exploring the most amazing places. You name it, he’s seen it.
Slyv, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.
To kick it off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m known under the lasting nickname Slyv – I’m a 32 years old French guy living in Brussels with my wife and two kids. Besides that, I work in management consulting. Oh and when night comes, I go out exploring.
You have an amazing website and visited some amazing locations.
>What was the first location you visited and what was so special about it that it triggered the urbex virus?
Thank you. I have been always exploring – I guess that is part of my genetic heritage. I started “urban exploration” in 1998 – when I discovered the internet, the term “urban exploration”, the communities, and launched my website. I was at that time living in Paris. My website started with Paris Catacombs – I still keep the original version of this early site on-line, to remember the good old days! At that time, the internet scene was pretty small, everybody almost knew each other.
If you could pick anybody from the scene to make the perfect urbex crew – who would you choose and why?
Damn, it’s not a question to make friends! I have the chance to have travelled all over the world, and explored a lot. I have a quite large network of friends exploring a bit everywhere. I have been exploring with many “big names” of the scene – thinking to Mr Motts from Opacity, Dsankt from Sleepycity, Henk from Abandoned Places, etc. I guess this is what you want to know with your question?
To answer it, let me define urbex as I feel it – there are as many definitions of “exploring” as explorers! When I am in an abandoned factory or castle, I feel like I’m visiting. I would link the word “exploring” with infiltrations (rooftops, tunnels…), active structures, etc. In this case, my perfect team is composed of no more than 2 persons, the second one being somebody you totally trust, you know how he will behave, react, and you don’t have to think for him. I found the perfect tandem 5 years ago with Tchorski – now he is a bit off the scene.
How would your urbex friends describe you?
Do you look at other explorers pics for inspiration or do you try to keep a fresh look?
Never. I don’t feel like a follower – I try to find my own stuff. Of course, I go to locations to document them, this is how I started. But I do not publish a lot, except exceptional objects. My website (and more recently my book) are only the visible part of the iceberg, I have hundreds of unpublished stuff that might eventually come out, someday… I just prefer spending the little time I have going out instead of sitting in front of my screen post-processing photos, researching history, etc.
Moreover, I can say that I seriously started photography in 2004 – before that I was using a disposable camera!
What motivates and inspires you to do more urbex instead of doing something else?
Firstly, it is something I have deep inside of me.
Secondly, the feedback I get from my website, I receive about 50 e-mails per day! Compliments, but also former workers comments, former patients testimonies, insults, threats, ghost hunters, etc. Lots of fun!
Who would you most like to acknowledge and compliment your urbex photography?
Photographically speaking, the work from Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre is the one I admire the most. Check their work!
Do you have any experiences with police and/or security in other countries and how did you deal with them?
Nothing serious up to now! ID checked many many times up to now by Police in France, Belgium, UK, USA.
Short story: we were on the roof of a national monument in Brussel. Somebody saw us getting in and called the police. 5 cars came surrounding the building – we managed to escape via a technical gallery!
I had also many confrontations with security, but nothing serious happened.
I had to run last summer in a Spanish sanatorium from a crazy gipsy / security guard who was throwing stones at us – I was with my father, 65 years old – he has a better physical condition than mine! It was about 35°C, very dry, and the distance was pretty long, but, after hopping the fence, we escaped (and my father insulted him in Spanish)!
Most of the time, you can talk your way out. In the end, they are happy to catch a guy with a camera instead of somebody spray painting or vandals with crowbars…
Do you plan ahead to keep the risk of detection to a minimum or is it haphazard-go lucky-style?
I try not to plan anything at all. This is how you make the best discoveries!
Recently, since 1 year, I’m doing mostly solo explorations, and they are the most rewarding. Finding your way, hiding when needed, etc. So many souvenirs!
What gear do you normally use when you go out exploring?
I travel very light.
I use since one year the awesome P7 LED – I can’t live without them any more. Light, powerful. I usually have 2 of them + spare batteries.
My cheap multi tool (costs 15€, but has powerful pliers, and screwdrivers). I buy a new one every 6 month.
Gloves, high vis jacket/ helmet when needed.
One camera, one lens (5D MKII, 16-35 2.8)
What is your opinion about HDR?
Can be good, can be bad, as anything dealing with post-processing!
What is your most special location to date and why?
Difficult to tell! Let’s say that to get a high rating from me, it has to be special, new, thrilling or unusual.
I recently (this week) infiltrated a huge building in Paris. I was alone, spent 4 hours inside. What a blast!
I discovered the vet school aka the horror labs in Brussels – did not know what to expect. And well yes, that was a nice surprise too!
I also find the American asylums really fascinating, from a very different point of view. They gather almost everything what I am looking for – except the novelty. They are huge, have awesome history, are tricky to explore and are most of the time simply magnificent!
Thanks again Slyv for taking the time! You can see more of his amazing work here
Slyv also just brought out an amazing book about his travels which can be checked and ordered here.