Seating Arrangements

13Jun14

Upon processing my images from Pennhurst State School & Hospital I realized that many of them feature the random chairs that were left behind. For me they represent evidence of human existence. I was drawn to the windows, draped with dingy curtains … at one time allowing just a glimpse of the world outside these walls. As I walked among the remains I thought about all the secrets from the past that are buried here and the spirits that surely linger. While processing the images I relied on my visual memory to stay true to the dark lighting and haunting feeling about the place.

Pennhurst was known as Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic when it opened in 1908. When admitted, patients were grouped into mental categories of imbecile or insane, and into physical categories of epileptic or healthy. Within three years of opening, Pennhurst was over-crowded, and at one time housed more than 2,700 patients as well as wards of the state … the majority children. Relatives were discouraged from visiting explaining that it would be ‘better for the patient’. In 1968, conditions at Pennhurst were exposed in a five-part television news report anchored by CBS reporter, Bill Baldini and titled, Suffer the Little Children. In 1983, nine employees were indicted on charges of abuse followed by the Halderman Case which detailed further, widespread abuse resulting in closing the institution in 1986.

Sitting Room

‘Sitting Room’ © Denise Bush

Room With A Desk

‘Room With A Desk’ © Denise Bush

Wheelchair II

‘Wheelchair II’ © Denise Bush

Reflection From The Outside

‘Reflection From The Outside’ © Denise Bush

Chair & Ball

‘Chair & Ball’ © Denise Bush



36 Responses to “Seating Arrangements”

  1. Wow!! Really stunning images. Creepy and beautiful!
    …and such a sad story…

  2. Just terrific! “Chair & Ball” is an outstanding composition.

  3. 5 Caz

    Really beautiful, haunting images.

  4. Fascinating images, Denise. You certainly captured the decay, and I agree that the chairs provide evidence of humans.

    • Thanks Ken. I’ve captured quite a few chairs over the years. I like that they add a human element without showing the human.

  5. These images are chilling! Well done!

  6. Beautiful shots – further whetting my appetite for a visit 🙂
    I too have to remember to not lighten up the images too much when processing – striking a balance between showing the viewer what is there but retaining the dark feel that these places have. Nice work Denise!

  7. 14 west517

    Fantastic images! Such a sad place!!

  8. 16 Deb

    Great job Denise, I don’t think I was in that building with all that furniture, it really adds to the scene. – Looking forward to going back!

    • I think you probably were in this building Deb. It’s the Mayflower building, same as the wheelchair. I noticed from looking at other photos online that things get moved around. I placed the small chair in that spot to look more like a grouping.

  9. 18 Donna

    Wow, very surreal.

  10. Great photos, love the reflections too and for me they can not be dark and haunting enough 😉
    Greetings, Ron.

  11. Yowza! Absolutely awesome work. They are all my favorites. Looking forward to our trip!

  12. Stunning, evocative and poignant photos.

  13. 26 Rich Proctor

    Pennhurst is an exceedingly haunted place (I remember it from Ghost Adventures), and you really captured that haunted atmosphere in your images. Great work!

  14. Haunting images. Good project.

  15. 30 Linda

    Awesome! Absolutely awesome! Love them all.

  16. PRIVATE GROUP PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR at PENNHURST • SUN. AUG. 24
    Leave a comment letting me know you are interested to receive the invite and further information.

  17. Your entire Pennhurst series truly present such a haunting experience. Your images translate a level a sadness particularly when realizing the history. Great photography.

  18. Decided to come back and look these over again. I really like your interpretation of these rooms. I think my favorite of this set is “Room with a Desk.” The low angle adds a sinister element to the scene. And the reflection is an excellent touch. Sorry I won’t be able to make the trip.


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