Returning To Prison


A couple of weeks ago I went on a photo shoot to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, along with some friends. I have lost count of how many times I have been there. This February day it was very cold and we weren’t planning on staying long so I went my own way and got right to work. With each visit it gets a little more difficult to find something I haven’t photographed before, but I enjoy the challenge. I bypassed the popular barber’s chair and Capone’s cell, scanning the cell blocks, looking for something other than the typical images of cells and halls. Displayed are a few favorites from the morning. An old boot I had seen and photographed before turned out better with a second try. I liked that it added a human element and completed the found still life. I noticed a mysterious, mossy wall with a blocked doorway that spoke to me and framed an unconventional composition, juxtaposing the radiator with the doorway. Windows showed their character with exposed stone and plaster and an entrance to the hospital ward cast some interesting shadows. Finally sun streaming in some doorways reminded me of the very different world outside these walls, both then and now.

I enjoy going back to locations I find interesting because it gives me a chance to study a place more completely, fine-tune compositions and discover new ones. Returning to Eastern State Penitentiary on several occasions over the years has been both visually rewarding and a lot of fun!

Still Life With Boot

‘Still Life With Boot’ © Denise Bush

'Tomb Of The Unknown'  © Denise Bush

‘Tomb Of The Unknown’ © Denise Bush

LookingOut, Looking In

‘Looking Out, Looking In’ © Denise Bush

Hospital Ward Entrance

‘Hospital Ward Entrance’ © Denise Bush

No Escape From Winter

‘No Escape From Winter’ © Denise Bush

Prison Light & Shadow

‘Prison Light & Shadow’ © Denise Bush

50 Responses to “Returning To Prison”

  1. So incredible! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Such interesting compositions, Denise. Kind of creepy in a way, but compelling to think about it in its heyday. One can hear echoes of the past from these photos.

  3. I love your work in abandoned places! Bravo!

  4. This set is really good, Denise. The clarity of the textures is terrific and the compositions are interesting.

  5. Wonderful! Loved it!

  6. Gosh, it even looks cold.

    • Well it can be darn hot and humid there (which has been my experience every other time) so I actually welcomed the cold! Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment.

  7. Always a challenge to not go with the standard shots – but these places are so large that multiple visits are often necessary. Great shots of this grand place – a model for reuse though tourism.

  8. Its is nice for me to visit your photo’s again of the prison. I have yet to go there but love seeing your images. Great detail, depth and textures in every photo.

  9. Fine photos. Second visits are always more productive even if the excitement is a touch less. Finding new angles and subjects is fun. Choose a lens and stick with it.

    • I guess most photographers feel the same although I do know of a few that seldom go back to the same place. Thanks for coming to take a look and leave a comment Andrew.

  10. When I read the title I thought the law had caught up with you. Whew. This is a most elegant presentation of Eastern State that I have seen. Considering what the place is, it becomes obvious what kind of a creative challenge you must have faced in order to create these images. Your visual take on abandoned places is always a refreshing one.

  11. I would love to go here…and to our Mansfield Prison here too! Great shots

    • Thank you! Does the Mansfield Prison allow photographers and tripods? Eastern does which makes it quite nice since it is a high dynamic range and low light situation. You can buy a tripod pass which is good for a year.

  12. 25 Linda

    Beautiful, Denise!

  13. Beautiful images, I especially like the windows and Ward Entrance selections. I appreciate your eye for composition.

  14. Wonderful images, Denise, overflowing with a sense of sad emptiness. My favourite was Hospital Ward Entrance, with your use of sunlight and shadow adding another dimension to the already present brick wall textures. It must have been a depressing place to do time in. Today, it’s a photographers dream.

  15. They give a certain impression, makes me think that there is beauty everywhere.

  16. Wonderful photos. You really give a great sense of the place. It must be so cool to make photos there.

    • Thanks Chris. I think there are related links at the end of the post from other visits to this location. This set has a few more close-ups than usual.

  17. I have certainly enjoyed your architectural photographs, Denise. Others, too, but I think I identify with your architecture because my dad loved the same kinds of subjects. Very nice, and thank you for sharing your images.

    • Thank you Dave. I’m glad you can identify with my images. I have been drawn to these abandoned, decaying subjects since childhood. I am not sure what that says about me!

  18. 37 KBT

    Beautifully captured!

  19. This is a fabulous series! The tones & contrast are wonderful and the composition of your images is outstanding. Very well done!

  20. I’d love the opportunity to explore an old prison like this. You certainly captured some wonderful images.

  21. Superb photography

  22. It’s a unique place that I was at once. The big draw for me was the Al Capone cell and the Steve Buschemi audio tour. Both didn’t disappoint.

  23. Beautiful eye

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