97 Images of Our Fragile, Rotting Infrastructure

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We think steel, glass and concrete will live forever. Then we look at the things we've built that don't last. These 97 images from this week's Shooting Challenge are deflating, haunting...and a bit reassuring. At least nature will go on.

Winner - Urban Decay in a Decade

The Bandra - Worli Sealink, a bridge in the City of Mumbai, India joining two areas of the Metro that took nearly 10 years to construct and complete has already started showing its ill sides. I was wandering about one afternoon when it struck me that "under the over" would be a great place to get some pics. On my route, I had to walk a great to deal with my equipment. Once i reached, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the bridge. All in all in made a good photography site and i hope you guys like it too. D300s - 18-200mm VR - f8 - 1/250secs. - ISO-250
- Arsh Sayed


Patient Zero

I found this spot by accident by taking a slightly different route to my original target destination. This is rear of the old Pillsbury A Mill near downtown Minneapolis which carries the distinction of having never caught fire or exploding (which apparently is notable enough to warrant mention on Wikipedia). It's an amazingly large and mostly abandoned facility near a very active part of town.


There is a wide variety of interesting subjects around the complex. I liked this particular shot because I thought that the door looked like patient zero's escape point in a zombie flick. Shot with a Canon 5D Mark II with the 17-40mm @ f/11,1/60th of a second, ISO 100.
-Jess Zibble



For the past decade I have driven the same route to work, past a plot of land that was once part of an old military base. For years it was dotted with abandoned buildings, remnants of the old base. On my daily drive I have watched with interest the evolution of this field. At one time the old base was converted to a business park, the original buildings converted to more mundane uses, then one by one they were eventually torn down. After the last building came down the land was leveled and left to the rabbits and the weeds for several years. Through all of this one far corner of this field was never touched by the bulldozers and backhoes. Sitting in this corner under some trees are two old buses, abandoned all those years ago. I remember a time when they looked liked they could just be started up and driven away, but time, the elements and man have taken their toll on them. The tires have rotted, the windows smashed and graffiti covers nearly every inch.


Recently new construction has again changed the landscape. The weeds have been cleared and the land sculpted in preparation for new construction to come. Inexplicably these two buses have once again escaped the notice of the construction machinery that trawls back and forth across the field. They are almost hidden from view now as the land changes around them yet they remain untouched, sitting alone among the wildflowers in the corner of the field.

Although not a building or other part of the permanent infrastructure I still thought these buses would make a great subject for this challenge. I took this photo in the early morning sunlight on my way to work. Taken with a Canon Rebel Xsi, f/7.1, Exposure time 1/80s, ISO 200, Focal length 55mm. Color enhanced in Dynamic Light HD for iPad.
-Michael Drewry



Given its age and the vast number of weathering stone buildings it contains, it took a surprisingly long time roaming around Oxford, England to find a suitable urban decay scene. The place is surprisingly well-maintained. I set out to find grasses growing in between bricks that had pushed them around over time; however, the submitted photo was taken in a nice neighborhood of Oxford — Jericho. It wasn't just the peeling paint that drew me to the scene, it was the rusted screw sitting there, like someone couldn't be bothered to make sure their gate was functioning properly, let alone repaint it, and also the contrasting overgrown red vines. Sony DSC-W220, f/2.8, ISO-125, 1/400 sec, EV -1/3
-Jeannie Moulton


Blue Wall

This old Napa auto parts building has been deteriorating for years now. I actually use the wall as a backdrop for portraits I shoot in town. Shot a little late in the day so I had to crank the ISO to 1600. Shot RAW with D90, 18-70DX at F3.5. Processed in Lightroom.
-Kyle Frantz


Theater In the Clouds

The moment I saw your ad, I knew I had to shoot this theater I saw while walking around Newark. The Proctor's Palace Theater was an eight-story complex with a large 2, 300-seat theatre at ground level and a smaller theatre of about 900 seats occupying the top four floors beneath the roof. Built in 1915, designed by architect John W. Merrow in downtown Newark. Unfortunately, the theater was one of the many places that closed down as a result of the infamous Newark riots of 1967. Since that time, Newark fell into a state of urban decline, causing places like the Proctor's sit vacant, unnoticed. This photograph was taken on the top floor of the complex, referred to as the "roof theater". The cloud screen was by far the most fascinating thing I have seen in an abandoned building in quite some time, it was painted to create an atmospheric feel to the theater. It is amazing how beautifully built theaters were back in the day. I feel this photograph represents urban decay in a different light than broken down, dilapidated buildings. There is still a beauty to this image, this theater. Something you don't often see. This photograph was taken on a Hasselblad 501CM with Kodak Portra 160VC film. It was shot at f/16 at one second.
-Lindsay Blair Brown


Nature Taking it Back

This pictures shows an interesting house in the neighborhood of Nunoa, in Santiago, Chile. The neighborhood is very well cared both by the municipality and by the people living here, and this house just stand out with its wild nature. I'm not sure if ther eis people still living there, but if there is, they're loosing the battle against Nature! Canon 60D, ISO: 100, Aperture: F/6.3, Lens: Tamron 10-24mm wide angle, Exposure: HDR image with 11 pictures, 0.5EV steps, anchor at 1/125
- Guilherme Venere


Eastern State Penitentiary

I shot this using a 20mm lens and my Nikon D700. It was taken at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. This was my first time here, and it was kind of a last minute trip. It's a great place with amazing shadows, lines, and a long history.
-Pablo Piedra


I had no idea this week's challenge would be such a hit, but apparently you're all as obsessed with our fragile infrastructure as I am. Our lead shot was so striking, a mix of warm colors, colossal new engineering and all these hints of nature collecting its toll, but boy did I like Patient Zero and Theater in the Clouds...it was a tough week to choose a winner, so I'm hitting publish on this post before I inevitably change by mind one hundred more times. There are a number of fantastic photos in the gallery below; don't miss them. Find the wallpapers, as always, on flickr.

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.