Columbia Journalism School

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Brian Patrick Eha ’12 publishes master's project with Outside magazine

July 16, 2012

Recent Columbia Journalism School graduate Brian Patrick Eha ’12 homed in on the topic of his master’s project as early as the spring 2011 open house. He knew he wanted to pursue the idea of “urbex”—urban exploration—and he knew he wanted to pursue it not just in theory, but in practice.

His commitment and focus paid off: Outside magazine published his entire project, uncut and accompanied by photos, on their website, and promoted it in the August print issue. “Explorers of the Underground” is nearly 8,000 words, with six of Eha’s photos included.

The piece is an investigation of the history and culture of urban exploration, particularly in New York City. The activity “involves finding, accessing and exploring parts of the urban environment that are generally not open for public use,” and Eha reported the kinds of places these explorers seek, and the kinds of drives that fuel them to seek. He also went with them.

“I knew there was no way I could adequately convey to readers what it was like to explore these places, and why someone would find this exploration worthwhile, without doing it myself,” Eha said.

Accordingly, the piece contains not only philosophies and revelations of the urban spelunkers Eha interviewed, but revelations Eha himself had, descending deserted tunnels and climbing into abandoned factories: such as why New York City, in all its layers, is the urbex Eden it is—and why city dwellers should consider more often the “secret, hidden New York” around them.

“Every New Yorker thinks the city is his city. But it is precisely these individual relationships between the city and the millions who inhabit it, or who in former ages passed through it as a way-station along the road of life, that make it impossible ever to hold simultaneously in one's mind all the aspects of the city so many take as their own. In the course of its history it has gathered to itself too many humiliations and failures, too many secret victories and betrayals, too much hope and despair ever to be fully known by any single individual,” Eha wrote.

Eha quotes adventurer Erling Kagge, who told him, “I believe exploration will endure. We are born curious. We are born wandering over the next hill. And we are born wanting more space around us. I think we will always be explorers.”

“It was thrilling and fascinating to report, and I can only hope it’s equally enjoyable to read,” Eha said of the piece.

Brian Patrick Eha is a journalist, author, photographer, editor and entrepreneur. His journalism and critical essays have been published by or are forthcoming from The Atlantic, Columbia Journalism Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books and other publications. He received the end-of-year Journalism Editorial Award upon graduating from the Journalism School. He currently lives in Manhattan, where he's interning with Entrepreneur magazine and working on a novel. @brianeha
 

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Beneath the streets of New York City. Photo/Brian Patrick Eha '12.


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