Photo by Paige Ellens
In this week’s Memphis Flyer (our sister publication), we dive into the world of urban exploration and the photographers who are in the thick of it, like Nate Packard, who was interviewed for the story.
Who do you normally go with?
It’s usually just friends. There’s been one time where we went with somebody [officially], and that was the Sears Crosstown building to do an actual tour. It’s usually just me and a couple of friends — a couple of photographers. We’ll just go places.
Where all have you been?
The [Tennessee] Brewery, this random abandoned warehouse near Elmwood Cemetery, an abandoned hospital, the Sears [Crosstown] building — random buildings.
How did you get started in doing urban exploration?
The very first time, I was just hanging out with some friends, and one of my friends was like, “Hey, have you guys been to the Brewery?” And I was like, “No.” It was probably like seven at night, and she was like, “Well, you get a good view of the city, but you have to go in at night so people don’t see you.” It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing. It was right before finals, right before the summer. I think we had been standing around all night, and then we just said, “Let’s just go do this.” We went to the Brewery, and we had to jump the fence. Then, we had to climb up these random stacks of wood. There’s a much easier way to get in, but we didn’t know that, so we made it way harder for ourselves. We had to jump down almost a story into the actual [building], but we walked around and found the stairs. We made it up to the roof and just hung out, looked around.
Was there any part that was nerve-wracking or scary?
There was a bunch of random graffiti. We came up these stairs, turned around, and on the roof that’s parallel with the stairs, it said: “This way to hell.” And just a bunch of weird stuff like that. Some of the places, like the abandoned hospital . . . we’ve heard stuff like, “Don’t go in there.” Weird groups of people. We heard all these random noises. We saw this table where you could tell they would strap people down and clamp their head in. It was just really creepy, like a morgue.
At the place near Elmwood Cemetery, there were just two of us; there wasn’t a big group of us. We thought this place was abandoned, and we found a second story. We go up there, and we’re talking in a normal tone of voice. Then [my friend] Sam goes, “Wait.” He points over, and there’s a mattress and a guy laying there under covers.
What’s your reason, generally, for urban exploring?
Usually, what makes me interested in it, especially when we go to the abandoned hospital, is the old stuff that’s in there. I bring my camera because I like taking pictures, but I’m not really going in with the intention of taking “urban exploration” pictures. I’m just taking my camera, taking pictures of things that happen to be urban exploring. That said, I was really interested when my friends did it before, and they’d seen a bunch of old files, like medical records. [The previous tenants] had left all the furniture in there. By the time we got there, it was really emptied out, so I was really let down.
Usually, it’s spur-of-the-moment, but I’m always going to bring my camera because I’m always interested in the things that are going to be there.