Pennhurst Revisited


I paid a second visit to Pennhurst State School & Hospital last weekend in an outing I organized to include some photographer friends. It was fun sharing the experience but a little more challenging for me. I had already photographed the scenes that called out loudest to me and now I had to dig a little deeper so as not to repeat what I had done a few months before. I found myself still attracted to several scenes with the left-over wooden chairs and institutional seating. Down in the basement, in a place called ‘Candy Land’ a small group of us practiced light-painting. ‘Candy Land Exit’ and ‘Math Studies’ are the results. I chose several frames to process and then picked my favorites to display here. Like before, I did my best to stay true to the color, light and feeling about the place.

For more information about Pennhurst scroll down to my previous posts or use these links. (To return home click ‘Denise Bush’s Photo Blog’ at the top.)
Sneak Peek
Seating Arrangements
Inside Pennhurst

'Candyland Exit'  © Denise Bush (There are 5 children in the mural. Can you see them all?)

‘Candy Land Exit’ © Denise Bush
(There are 5 children in the mural. Can you see them all?)

'Beside The Outside'  © Denise Bush

‘Beside The Outside’ © Denise Bush

'Institution Remnants'  © Denise Bush

‘Institution Remnants’ © Denise Bush

'Outside These Walls'  © Denise Bush

‘Outside These Walls’ © Denise Bush

'The Social Room'  © Denise Bush

‘The Social Room’ © Denise Bush

'Smiley Faces'  © Denise Bush

‘Smiley Faces’ © Denise Bush

'Pennhurst Portal'  © Denise Bush

‘Pennhurst Portal’ © Denise Bush

'Stairwell To Nowhere'  © Denise Bush

‘Stairwell To Nowhere’ © Denise Bush

'Math Studies'  © Denise Bush

‘Math Studies’ © Denise Bush

'Three-legged Chair'  © Denise Bush

‘Three-legged Chair’ © Denise Bush

44 Responses to “Pennhurst Revisited”

  1. 1 Deb

    Great job Denise. I particularly like stairway to nowhere. I couldn’t bring myself to go down to Candy land again this time. I had a hard time this time around finding things that where different and that spoke to me.

    • Thanks Deb. I was feeling the same way as I said in the post but in the end feel like I found some good stuff. I bet you did too!

  2. I’m glad you have dug a little deeper into this hauntingly strange and beautiful place. I’ll have to get there someday. I like this as a set of images but I’m finding that 3 legged chair with the dark doorway and strong shadow is really attracting my attention.

    • Thanks Rich. I remembered seeing the three-legged chair but missing the opportunity to photograph it last time so I headed straight for it this time. I think it’s fun (unless you try to sit in it).

  3. Nice to see the results of your adventure – while we all saw the same things I’m sure each of us did a very different rendering of the scene – it would be interesting to compare and contrast the results from the group – It certainly was a great day and breaking the group up was brilliant. I came back with 40GB of images (yes, that is due in part to bracketing) – so I have a lot of work ahead of me 🙂
    Great shots from you here Denise.

    • That’s a heck of a lot of shots Robert! I didn’t even fill a 16GB card and have a 23MP camera, and I bracket too. Was so nice to meet you and I hope our paths cross again. Can’t wait to see your take. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Your images express the sad history of Pennhurst. You captured several images that I did not see when attending your field trip. I can see the value of a second visit. Thank you for organizing this event.

  5. What an awesome series this is Denise. I’ve never heard of this place and it sounds so intriguing. I’m assuming you can visit this place during regular times? The website only showed Halloween events.

  6. Next time I am hanging with you. I missed Candy Land altogether. Those images are my favorites of yours in this collection. I also like the Pennhurst Portal with the vines growing above the window. For sure you have captured the mood of the place.

    • Thanks for taking a look and the comment. People wanted to start shooting and didn’t want to do the walk-through on the second building so I surrendered.

  7. 13 Russ Hunt

    Beautiful work Denise. I especially like that one of the bed with the smiley face.

  8. Very nice, Denise. Beautiful work. Wish I could have been there, but a previous commitment to a Yosemite workshop interfered.

  9. Simply WOW ! Beautiful work !

  10. Your photos are outstanding, Denise. You captured the essence of Pennhurst in its current state. I liked your conversions to B&W, especially the stairwell and Candyland as color was not important to those images. I also like how you were able to see what was outside the windows; you handled them well.

  11. 22 Bob D

    Really liked the B/W nice change and for me a refreshing perspective -non HDR. You managed to pull different views which had to be a challenge. I missed your class but managed to get there myself and had great time. I might return even though it’ been done and overdone…

    • Thanks Bob. I wish people weren’t so quick to judge what is and what isn’t ‘HDR’. Like I always say, ‘all HDR is not created equal’. With that said, this is an excellent place for HDR processing. Some of these are and some of these aren’t and in either case I wanted them all to have a similar style. Two of the three B&W are ‘HDR’ processed. These days there are several filters that will produce an HDR look. Don’t be an HDR-hater … be an over-filtered hater!

  12. 24 Bonnie

    Such great photos from such a sad place. I love Candy Land Exit and Smiley Faces. They really grabbed my attention.

  13. Thanks for escorting me to Candyland, haha! You and your video light were much appreciated. 🙂 Seriously, though, I really enjoyed the introduction to light painting and getting to watch you guys work…the final images are fantastic. Candyland Exit and Smiley Faces speak to me as the strongest, partly for the deeper meaning they represent. So sad.

  14. 28 Linda

    This is such a great series, Denise. I especially love Three-legged Chair and Pennhurst Portal. 🙂

  15. Una Serie Impresionante, Pero Sin Duda ‘Outside These Walls’ Me Encanta, Muy Buena… Un Saludo.

  16. 32 Emilio Pasquale

    An amazing series filled with the ghosts of those who were patients.

  17. This image impresses me the most . . . it is priceless! It looks like the children are heading for the door.

  18. Finally here… what a pleasant surprise for me, as the back-story of this place hit a very negative chord with me both emotionally and creatively. It seemed to dissipate while you gave us the initial walk-through. The vibe in the fist building turned to exploration and shape, which set up the second shoot in our last and my fav building…. I missed so much. This is where your visits have paid off and I can see why you come back to a place… I have in the past very rarely shot a venue a second time.
    I for one am very thankful to you for organizing this venture and the “missed so much” comment only serves to show me that revisits can result in new compositions.

    • Your and my approach is dissimilar in this regard. I love going back to a place. It’s that striving to do it better that keeps me going back. I often learn a lot from my first session and when reviewing my images take note of what I could have done better. I also like seeing how many compositions I can get from a place and sometimes that is not possible with just one visit.

  19. Brilliantly atmospheric images of a very striking location.

  20. very spooky… yet the light, color and detail in your photos is outstanding… !!

  21. Amazing series, very well composed and the details are beautiful!
    Greetings, Ron.

  22. I love the play of light, colors and textures. I can almost hear kids’ laughter and feet running. I can feel the abandonment of the place.

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