Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Abandoned asylum adventures part 1

Art Prints
Abandoned psychiatric facility (first level of building 122)
deadly corridor

Photography Prints
Abandoned psychiatric facility (upper level room at rear of building 122)
lost souls
Photography Prints
Abandoned psychiatric facility (basement of building 122)
darkness revealed
Art Prints
Abandoned psychiatric facility (building 135)
resuscitator room
Photography Prints
Abandoned psychiatric facility
Stairs and Corridor
Sell Art Online
Abandoned psychiatric facility (building 136)
Sell Art Online
Abandoned psychiatric facility (building 136)
foreboding doorway
Photography Prints
Abandoned psychiatric facility (building 136)
Photography Prints
Building 136
Dark Empty Cabinets
Sell Art Online
Abandoned psychiatric facility (building 136)
Open Cabinet Doors
Sell Art Online
Abandoned psychiatric facility (building 136)
long narrow lavatory

These images are from three separate trips to an abandoned psychiatric facility in New York which resides on a huge acreage and consists of dozens of buildings. The facility opened in the mid 1800's and expanded rapidly from several patients to several thousand. Thorazine, shock therapy and frontal lobotomies were part of the treatments for many patients but on the bright side reduced the number of which needed to be kept in restraints and straight jackets over time. Treatments eventually became better, more effective and more humane.
During the later years, patients were transferred out to other facilities and officially closed down in 1996, although a couple of smaller buildings still are used as homes and treatment centers for a number of patients.

The first building I ventured into alone, building 122. This was part of a group consisting of a few buildings where patients were housed. This group of buildings were in terrible condition from roofs that had collapsed allowing extreme water dame to set in over the years. The other buildings had already imploded and this one I went in was ready to collapse at any time. The first shot in b&w is of the first level corridor with many rooms on each side. As you can see, the floors are caving and much of the ceiling as well exposing the upper level corridor. Foolishly, I had went in here alone and while trying to make my way down to search some of the rooms, the floor collapsed and I found myself halfway through to the basement. Fortunately, I did not fall all the way through and was able to pull myself up and get back to safer flooring. Many of the rooms were without floors due to collapse and large sections of the corridor floors were collapsed as well.

The next image of the window and faces on the wall was taken on the upper level of this building in a room at the very rear. Getting that shot was extremely nerve wracking because the entire floor in that room was swaying with my weight and many of the images did not come out quite well because the tripod would move due to the floor movement. Thankfully I came away with this image, and my life!

The next image is of a room in the basement. The entire basement was practically pitch black due to boarded up windows but this particular room had a window uncovered and a nice lighting shining through.

The next set of images are from building 135 which was used as a convalescence for special patients recovering from surgeries or illnesses. There were two floors and a basement but only the first floor had light from no boards on the upper half of the windows. I ventured into this building alone as well, but it was in much better shape than the other and aside from being a bit spooky I was comfortable in that it was fairly safe.

The next set are from building 136 which was the first stand alone medical and surgical building on the site, built sometime in the 1920's.

Fellow photographer James Oligney was interested in coming along for this venture and so we hooked up and headed out armed with dust masks, plenty of water and much of our camera gear including tripods. James is a cool dude and one heck of a fine photographer. He is specializing in portraiture and headshots and you should have a look at his site and blog. Great stuff from James.

On previous visits I had found an opening to a basement window and thought we could access it from there but turned out it was a sealed boiler room with no way into the rest of the structure. We roamed about the perimeter for a while when James calls out that he found an opening through a window that had been raised. Actually, took me a minute to realize he was calling for me because he was using a bird call and he sounded like the real thing!
This building was quite large compared to the previous ones I had hit. Three stories but covering a large footprint of about a half a block deep and side to side. It resembles two opposing L shapes joined in the center by the main rectangular structure, so inside it appears vast and a bit confusing. We made note of where we entered and kept track of how to get back to that room eventually.

All of my asylum images have been done with HDR (high dynamic range) processing typically utilizing about 5 exposures per image. This is done to try and balance the exposure from the bright window with that of the darkest areas in a room or corridor. Doing this allows for correct exposure of the entire scene without losing highlights due to blowout or detail in the shadow areas due to underexposure.

I'm using a program called Photomatix Pro to blend the exposures that i have captured in RAW format. I try to process them to have a more or less natural look about them and not look over cooked.
HDR can also be processed manually by layering several exposures in Photoshop and manually blending them together using layer masks. I actually do a combination of both in some images. Photographs where there are foliage outside a window can sometimes be difficult due to the wind blowing the foliage around in between takes. This can cause problems when trying to blend the exposures together with a program like Photomatix. Although most programs have settings that help align and reduce the "ghosting" effects of moving elements, they are not always very successful. I find I can take the exposure that was correct for the window area and manually blend it into the otherwise finished HDR image thus eliminating the ghosting due to movement. There are many ways of doing things and sometimes the best way is a combination of a few together.


Kimmie said...

Boy if those walls could talk hey!
Amazing photo's.

DennyHollandStudio said...

Incredible, mood-altering photos and I enjoyed your descriptions as much.

Eric Calabros said...

welcome back to your abandoned photography :-)

Victoria Bennett Beyer said...

The things we do for a shot, am I right? So glad you didn't get hurt (or trapped!). Those paintings you shot in the second and third pix really amp up the creepy factor. But all these shots are just great.

Bonnie said...

Chilling yet mesmerizing photographs Gary.

What a frightening experience - to fall through the floor and have to fight to return to the level you were at. Makes for an apt metaphor in a facility that had people falling into jagged, frightening states of mind, and having treatments that were at least or even more terrifying than their 'fall'.

Thanks for sharing these.

Gary Heller said...

Thanks all for dropping in a taking the time to share your thoughts.
Absolutely right, Victoria. We do some pretty absurd and sometimes foolish things because we are passionate about capturing the images.

Bonnie, as always your perspective is so interesting. I can only imagine that your right in that many patients here must have felt like they were falling into an abyss, trapped and terrified in a struggle that they felt overwhelmed by...the so-called solutions and treatments more terrifying than anything else. A living nightmare.

On a bright side, I am moved by some evidences of care and humanity such as flowers painted on windows and bright cheery pictures hanging on walls. Although i have not discovered any in these buildings I have seen hairdryers and beauty styling chairs in many abandoned asylum images from others and the intent was to take care of the patients and have them feel god about themselves on the outside and that would help them feel good on the inside. Effective or not, its nice to see the care and effort that did take place as well.

Agneta said...

Thanks gary!!

I will show some of your wonderful pictures, very soon on my blog.

I just love the combination of you and your camera lens = Rolls Royce feeling!

Peace & Love

Agneta, the swedish one ,)

Anonymous said...

brinkka2011 says: *,very nice page, i certainly enjoy this website, keep on it, keeping on!

Julie Magers Soulen said...

Gary this is an awesome series. The one with the window and eyes on the wall raised the hair on my neck! Then I read your account of the room swaying! Holy cow! I'm glad you got out with your life! Great work once again. Kudos.

Julie Magers Soulen Photography

Tess Kincaid said...

Deliciously fabulous...

Blusete Javivi said...

preciosas texturas. incleible reportaje de ausencia. Saludos.

The Tame Lion said...

Excellent! Cool!

Gary Keimig said...

Great work, Gary. A little appropriate for now when I have just dicovered them with Halloween coming up. Technically-outstanding work.

Julie Magers Soulen said...

What an awesome series. I love the stairway going up with the window at the top, and the shots with light coming in a window too. You have a special talent for catching light. Well done!

Julie Magers Soulen Photography

psychelyn said...

WOW WOW WOW! It is amazing how talented a photographer is to make such a beautiful pictures out of dingy places like these. I like your photography a lot. Bravo!

Isabel Augusto said...

Truly enjoy the way your capture and create haunting moods...