Posts Tagged ‘ urban ruins ’

Photo Set: Rockland Psychiatric Center

Yesterday, I posted about my visit to The Living Museum at Rockland Psychiatric Center. It was an unexpected surprise when my OMH colleagues arrived at Rockland with enough time ahead of their meeting that we spent about twenty minutes driving through the sprawling campus. Rockland opened in 1931 –when it accepted 60 male patients– to ease overcrowding at Manhattan State Hospital. At it’s peak, Rockland may have had as many as 9,000 patients and 2,000 staff. (Asylum Projects website, aylumprojects.org).

Post-deinstitutionalization, Rockland seems to have been abandoned in stages. Closest to the road, many of the buildings are so overgrown as to be difficult to photograph through brush. Closer to the administration building (and the modern hospital complex) the buildings are abandoned, and derelict, but covered with ivy of vivid color –since it seems my trip to Rockland coincided with the areas peak time for fall foliage.
Since it is so expensive to knock down the large, old buildings, they are allowed to stand and decay. Closer to the administration building, however, it appears some some of the older campus is being re-purposed for out-patient, vocational and other therapeutic purposes. A walking path goes right through the abandoned parts of the campus. None of the buildings are fenced off from the rest of the campus –which still hosts a variety of patient services and hospital/rehabilitation services. When I had finished my meeting and tour with the director of the Living Museum, I spent about an hour walking the grounds and taking pictures.  Some of the photos were taken from the car as I first arrived.

[click on the photos to view them full sized]

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Currently, Rockland serves a patient (historically speaking) small population between various programs. They are some of the regions most severely ill. A large part of their current population is also deaf. Nonetheless, I felt quite welcome in the cafe and other patients areas. I chatted briefly with patients and peer mentors. One woman who I spoke to was deaf. I explained with a mix of gesture and spoken language (since many deaf can lip-read to an extent) that I was interested in the art and visting because of that. As it turned out, I later saw her working away in the Living Museum (art therapy studio at Rockland) doing a reproduction of an impressionist piece.

[I want to present a brief afterword: I hope in my presentation here, people find respect and sensitivity to my subject matter. Remember these are places where the mentally ill lived a part of their lives, where people worked. There are, I found after my return home, two cemeteries (one contemporary, and one older) on the grounds of the hospital.  May they all rest in peace.]

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Photography: Urban Ruins, with commentary

The house that started it

I have always been fascinated with photographing abandoned buildings. This image is the house that started the fascination. It is a picture taken on a Pentax 35mm SLR when I was a high school student, taking a photography class. The house was an abandoned farmhouse near the home I grew up in, in rural Saratoga County. The house no longer stands. It was on a piece of property owned by my father, and my father had to demolish it because local teens were using it to party, and it was dangerous.

As a teen, I spent time inside the house. It was a real curiosity to me for how the stair-well to the second floor wound behind the living-room fire-place. There was a hole in the roof, and grass grew out of the second floor. An upstairs room had a soiled mattress in it, and stacks of pornography. This house would eventually lead me, in a round-about way, to the topic of my Masters thesis.

Fayette 1999

Fayette, Michigan

Fayette was a former industry town, near Escanaba, Michigan, where my mother grew up. The town smelted iron ore, and shipped it around the Great Lakes. When smelting methods improved, the town was abandoned. Eventually, the town became a tourist attraction, and, I think, a national park. During one of my visits to family, we visited Lafeyette, and I took these with a Pentax 35 mm SLR. These images were taken in 1999:

Fayette, Michigan

Fayette, Michigan

Fayette, Michigan

kilns, Fayette, Michigan

Town, Fayette, Michigan

Albany

Digital image, poor quality, side view, St Joseph's Church

In 2002, I moved permanently to Albany, NY, to go to college. I photographed many city land-marks with an HP digital camera. Because the files had to be transferred from computer to computer over the years, the quality of those images is poor, and most of my photos from that time are unrecoverable.

Albany has a rich history, and many of its historical landmarks have fallen into disrepair. Nevertheless, Albany remains a rich tapestry for my photographic interests. Here are some examples of significant, and insignificant urban ruins I have shot in Albany.

St. Joseph's Church, Arbor Hill, Albany

HP digital camera, Park South neighborhood, Albany

Refrigerator Building, north Albany. It recently caught fire.

Another shot of the same building, Kodak digital camera.

For my camera lens, This building has been the gift that keeps on giving. Not only is it prominent entering downtown Albany by car or bus, the damn thing burned for three days and is still there. One-time a cold storage warehouse, it’s massive and stark. Abandoned for decades, a one-time contractor entered the building to take scrap metal. The building caught fire and spewed smoke over Albany for days. The train tracks that run through north Albany (some are still in use) run practically up to the door, and the condition of near-by structures are hardly better. I’ve gotten a lot of shots over the years within blocks of this building.

Broadway, Albany, NY

Another doomed Albany building. From the outside it appears the roof has partially collapsed. This is about a block from major city attractions, only several blocks from the State Capitol.

Abandoned building, Near the Knickerbocker Arena/Times Union Center, downtown.

Madison Ave, Albany, NY

Train tracks, North Albany.

Former Trinity Church.

Image of Trinity Church. An out-of-town landlord bought this historic building, and let it crumble until it was lost to an emergency demolition. The building shares an architect with land-mark buildings in NYC and DC.

State Hospitals

When I was a literacy teacher in a GED program, I became interested in the architectural style of psychiatric hospitals popularized by Thomas Story Kirkbride. My interest in Kirkbride hospitals wedded my architectural and photographic interests to my literary and academic interests. I would eventually write my masters thesis about the Kirkbride hospitals. When I first floated the idea to my graduate adviser, I was pretty sure there was no way the school and department would let me take my degree with a paper written about Foucault’s theories, as they relate to an architectural style of state mental hospitals. I got proven wrong on that point. Here are some images so far of sites (and former sites) of the state hospitals my academic research focused on.

Out-building, former site of the North Hampton, Mass Kirkbride

Driveway, at Hudson River Psychiatric Center, Poughkeepsie, NY

While I was a teacher in a GED program, I developed a casual interest in the psychiatric reform movement of the latter half of the 19th-century. Since most of my academic research focused around the 19th-century, it was pretty natural to let a personal interest coalesce with an academic one. So, I wrote my thesis about Kirkbride hospitals, and the “Moral Treatment” movement.

Hudson River State Hospital (formerly Hudson River Lunatic Asylum, Poughkeepsie, NY), Kodak digital camera

Hudson River State Hospital, Kirkbride. Film photography, Olympus OM-1

 

Ruined barn, Bethlehem, NY. Kodak digital camera.

 

Port of Albany, Kodak digital camera

(more to come)

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