Hot! In Urban
Uploaded 29 Apr 2010 — 71 favorites
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© Joshua Ball
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Photo license: © All rights reserved

My brother Jeff ( and I visited Chicago a few weeks back as part of an ongoing photography project. Soon after we arrived, we realized how difficult it was going to be to access some of Chicago’s abandoned locations. Unlike Detroit or Toledo, Chicago has done well to either hide, destroy, reuse or barricade their old industrial buildings. After an entire day of scouting the city, we were becoming very discouraged, and it soon became apparent that this particular trip would require a little research in order to be successful. While Jeff navigated the unfriendly Chicago streets in our rental car, I turned to my Blackberry and started doing a little digging. With the help of a few urban explorer networks on Flickr, I was able to identify a handful of potential locations. Although we didn’t employ this research method until our second day, it was a big sigh of relief when we finally started shooting.

This particular image was taken in a building on Torrence Avenue which used to house the Chicago Steel and Wire company. Ironically enough, my research didn’t lead us to this location. By blind luck, we drove past it on our way to the Acme Coking Plant which was located nearby. After we shot what was left of the coking plant, we revisited the Chicago Steel and Wire complex the next day. The building housed a finishing plant which used steel from nearby mills to make wire and welding rods. I think this location, which we simply stumbled upon, yielded more interesting images than many of the others that had to be researched.

This was one of the last images that I took during the three full days I stayed in Chicago. To me, the light streaming into this long-forgotten warehouse represents the defeat of despair. Even the darkest places in our lives are not without the hope and renewal that illumination can bring. No matter the circumstances, we can always pull from our individual strengths to help us conquer our own darkness. This was not a friendly location. We came across black pools of contaminated water, rusty hooks suspended from the ceiling, a dog carcass and a fair share of broken shards of glass and twisted pieces of metal. Jeff even halfway fell through the roof when he tried to get a better look at the complex. Even in this nightmarish warehouse, I found comfort in these beams of light shining brilliantly through the windows. They let me know that the sun still existed and no matter how far we ventured into the building, I knew that those light beams were still there, illuminating the path back home.

56 responses

  • Laurie Self

    Laurie Self (Deleted) gave props (30 Apr 2010):

    This is beautiful.

  • P. Michael Bodigor

    P. Michael Bodigor gave props (30 Apr 2010):

    A well made and interesting photograph.

  • The Rossi Collection

    The Rossi Collection gave props (9 May 2010):

    I dig it man! Good job!

  • The Rossi Collection

    The Rossi Collection gave props (29 May 2010):

    This is so wicked man.

  • Genevieve Genevieve

    Genevieve Genevieve gave props (7 Jul 2010):

    damn this is an amazing capture its perfect

  • Denise Sarazin

    Denise Sarazin (Deleted) gave props (13 Jul 2010):

    Really cool image and nice capture.

  • Eva Praskova

    Eva Praskova said (17 Jul 2010):

    This is really great capture of the rays!

  • iseebeauty

    iseebeauty (Deleted) gave props (17 Jul 2010):

    So very good, great job

  • Patty Gross

    Patty Gross (Deleted) gave props (20 Jul 2010):

    Magical capture of the rays! A fantastic sight in such a terribly abandoned building. It gives one hope....they is beauty in places located in the depths of squalor and filth! Bravo!!

  • Amos Dor

    Amos Dor gave props (21 Jul 2010):

    Excellent comp. and capture. Bravo!!!

  • Laura Boston-Thek

    Laura Boston-Thek gave props (22 Jul 2010):

    amazing capture!

  • Caroline Andersson

    Caroline Andersson said (24 Jul 2010):

    I love this shot. The sun rays and the grotty building are such opposites. And what you wrote about the light beams getting into the darkest places was really nice. Good work!

  • Joshua Ball

    Joshua Ball gave props (24 Jul 2010):

    Thank you all for the kind comments!

  • Pauline Easter

    Pauline Easter gave props (26 Jul 2010):

    Nice light work.

  • Francesco Sisso

    Francesco Sisso gave props (26 Jul 2010):

    i love this photo. it's a beauty, in every sense

  • Maxim Kolesnikov

    Maxim Kolesnikov gave props (26 Jul 2010):


  • Carol Arntsen Masiak

    Carol Arntsen Masiak gave props (2 Aug 2010):

    excellent and voted!

  • ablackeye

    ablackeye gave props (3 Aug 2010):


  • saida pop

    saida pop said (5 Aug 2010):

    impressive and professional

  • Marc Champagne

    Marc Champagne gave props (5 Aug 2010):

    Great shot!

  • Nicole Filosa

    Nicole Filosa gave props (5 Aug 2010):

    wow! breathtaking photo and light!!

  • oliver geis

    oliver geis (Deleted) gave props (6 Aug 2010):

    very beautiful shot!

  • Laura Rose Fitt

    Laura Rose Fitt gave props (12 Aug 2010):

    this is sick. good job.

  • Santiago Padilla

    Santiago Padilla gave props (18 Aug 2010):

    Superb shot, very well done.

  • vonAsh

    vonAsh gave props (20 Aug 2010):

    Stunning shot! It is haunting and beautiful all in the same breath.

  • The Rossi Collection

    The Rossi Collection gave props (24 Aug 2010):

    Voted yo

  • Kristin Rude

    Kristin Rude gave props (27 Aug 2010):

    You should re-visit this and put a subject (or a hot chick) sitting on the floor in the light...imho :)

  • Claire Crocker

    Claire Crocker gave props (27 Aug 2010):

    Nothing short of amazing!

  • James Pommerening

    James Pommerening gave props (27 Aug 2010):

    Wow! Great shot! Voted

  • Chelsea Rising

    Chelsea Rising gave props (28 Aug 2010):

    awesome! voted

  • Anastasija Katcyna

    Anastasija Katcyna said (28 Aug 2010):


  • Richard Bruns

    Richard Bruns said (28 Aug 2010):

    Some newcomer! You've got great stuff!

  • Liz Brown

    Liz Brown gave props (28 Aug 2010):

    Love this

  • Dicky Van Garoet

    Dicky Van Garoet gave props (2 Sep 2010):

    yeeaahh voted...

  • Lisandra Montañez

    Lisandra Montañez gave props (2 Sep 2010):

    Definitely something different! Mad props.

  • Patricia Green

    Patricia Green said (5 Sep 2010):

    This is an amazing photo.

  • Marianne Greig

    Marianne Greig gave props (6 Sep 2010):

    you are good

  • Nicolette de Joncaire

    Nicolette de Joncaire   gave props (9 Sep 2010):

    I guess all has been said. Amazing, my vote

  • Hovering

    Hovering gave props (10 Sep 2010):

    Love it!

  • Erik Howard

    Erik Howard said (10 Sep 2010):

    Great shot... but most importantly, great process! I respect the work and ethic involved. Here in Detroit its tiresome to see outsiders repeatedly ravage our wide open imagery to exploit our landscape (leaving nothing in the way of contribution or meaning for the community) under the guise of an "adventurer" and artist though nothing daring or creative was done to obtain the capture! This is different. The reasons are probably too lengthy to try to explain but I feel there is something here for Chicago, for you, for others and more through your image and words. Thanks!

  • Brian Basi

    Brian Basi (Deleted) gave props (11 Sep 2010):

    Awesome capture here...voted and faved!!!

  • Cheryl Townsend

    Cheryl Townsend gave props (14 Sep 2010):

    Very, very nice. Miru Kim would love the location! I can just see her in the rays.....

  • Steven Maguire

    Steven Maguire gave props (15 Sep 2010):

    Excellent capture!!!!

  • L Perez

    L Perez gave props (23 Sep 2010):

    dope Josh

  • ina:botao

    ina:botao (Deleted) said (24 Sep 2010):

    I love the various intensity of the light beams...fabulous scenery!

  • misha otaared

    misha otaared gave props (24 Sep 2010):

    beautiful capture of light

  • Woj

    Woj (Deleted) gave props (24 Sep 2010):

    amazing capture, nice work

  • Mali Viskova

    Mali Viskova gave props (28 Sep 2010):


  • Mag TY

    Mag TY gave props (28 Sep 2010):

    love the rays (of hope)

  • allan

    allan gave props (19 Oct 2010):

    i'll just say,,,,WOW

  • Robyn Allan

    Robyn Allan said (18 Nov 2010):

    love your photo's, especially this! (:

  • Donna Mullins

    Donna Mullins (Deleted) gave props (6 Sep 2011):

    quite a poignant story and photo. Just wonderful!

  • Beth Ray

    Beth Ray (Deleted) gave props (7 Sep 2011):


  • Capers Hammond

    Capers Hammond gave props (7 Sep 2011):

    love it

  • jan-louise haller

    jan-louise haller gave props (15 Sep 2011):

    Beautiful SHot !

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