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Beyond the Security Fence

Picturing Britain, Series 2 Episode 5 of 5

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 09 October 2011

In Picturing Britain, Adil Ray explores British life through the lens of some of the country's photographers.

Urban explorers creep through tunnels and drains, scale cooling towers and climb into abandoned buildings to get into parts of the country that are off-limits. Adil joins Li as he photographs a derelict military site, clambering through nettles and decaying buildings to document a hidden side of Britain. Although unusually Li has permission to photograph, Adil is still on his guard, tiptoeing through the crumbling ruins and jumping at every sound.

By day Li works with architects constructing buildings. But at night he dons his black clothes and grabs his camera and torch to record their demise. He sees himself as a modern day historian, safeguarding Britain's heritage by photographing buildings before they are torn down or collapse.

Urbexers, as they call themselves, emphasise that they have huge respect for the buildings they enter - and that they frown upon theft and leave nothing but footprints. Adil examines the ethics of trespass with Li as he photographs ivy bursting through a window, showing the beauty of decay and allure of peeling paint.

Producer: Sarah Bowen.

  • Adil Ray meets urban explorer Li

    Adil Ray meets urban explorer Li

  • Urban Explorer Li

    Urban Explorer Li


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