30 Striking Photos Showing the Beauty of Urban Decay

When buildings are abandoned and forgotten, it’s the end of a story. Slowly these old structures will be reclaimed by their environment. This process of urban decay is sad and beautiful. It’s also a unique photo opportunity, according to urban explorers.

Photographers of urban decay focus on what happens after the end, when buildings are no longer in use. They show the striking beauty of decay in the buildings at large, as well as in the details. The photos of abandoned architecture remind us that everything can fall apart. At the same time, photos of urban decay are a way to remember the past. These photos capture the last traces of stories that soon will be entirely forgotten.

If you’d like to get into urban decay photography yourself, you first need to find a suitable location. Try to look for abandoned buildings such as hospitals, sanitoriums, factories, prisons, schools. There may be groups of local urban explorers that keep a list of abandoned buildings in your area. A quick online search could already get you quite far. Of course, you should be safe (and not break the law) and definitely bring a tripod.

Here are a couple of resources with more tips for shooting urban decay.

Contrastly — Finding Your Way Around Urban Decay Photography
This post covers some of the basic things you should consider when beginning urban decay photography. It also has some great tips for creating stunning photos in abandoned buildings.

Photopoly — Tips for Urban Decay Photography
In this post, you’ll find useful tips for photographing urban decay about gear, when to shoot and composition, among other things.

Urban Decay Photography

Here’s a selection of photos that show the beauty of decay. As you can see in the variation between the photos, each urban photographer has brought their own personal aesthetic to urban exploration.

olavXO — Rumble in Congo
urban decay abandoned furniture

Jan Bommes — Abandoned Ballroom (2)
urban decay abandoned ballroom

Pelle Sten — Piano Keys
urban decay dusty piano keys

Davidlohr Bueso — urban decay
urban decay in malyasia staircase

davejdoe — Cupboards
urban decay cupboards

S. H. — 俺俺俺俺俺…
urban decay japan wall with graffiti

Groman123 — Lights are breaking in…
urban decay broken windows and walls

S. H. — brokenhearted roof
urban decay broken rooftop

Groman123 — Lost Place
urban decay industrial building

Randy Heinitz — Urban Decay
urban decay arizona

Rookuzz — Untitled
urban decay rust on car

robin robokow — Windows on Istanbul
urban decay windows in istanbul

Jan Bommes — Socialist Recreation Home F. (5)
urban decay socialist recreation home in east germany

jos — Graffiti in Broken Glass
urban decay broken glass

Rookuzz — Untitled
urban decay rust

Timm Suess — Madeline
urban decay Burnt-down warden's house on Alcatraz island

Jay Hilgert — urban_decay_2
urban decay rust and paint

Gilles k. — UD_11
urban decay abandoned furniture

Bryan Rosengrant — Urban Decay
urban decay window panes

kr428 — decomposing urban structures
urban decay architecture

Mike Boening Photography — Schroeder Paint and Glass_Detroit
urban decay detroit tires in the street

Lennart Tange — Chambre Du Commerce
urban decay chamber of commerce

Mike Boening Photography — Schroeder Paint and Glass_Detroit
urban decay broken windows detroit

Hunter McGinnis — Untitled
urban decay asylum

Gilles k. — UD_04
urban decay architecture

Lennart Tange — Eylenbosch
urban decay abandoned brewery

Francesca Dioni — Center mass in the middle of the monster
urban decay factory

Groman123 — Lost hall
urban decay in germany

Jan Bommes — Abandoned Distillery
urban decay Abandoned Distillery

olavXO — Sonata of Decay
piano in sanitorium