Ephemera

Anything and everything else related to Opacity.

Cemetery Safari: The Millionaire's Mausoleum

Old cemeteries can be somewhat similar to abandoned places; I find these quiet and secluded areas dotted with moldy stones and musty tombs are fun to explore and photograph. Curious symbols such as anchors, tree trunks, acorns, and hand gestures have deep spiritual and sometimes cryptic meanings. Ornate crypts hearken back to Egypt's Valley of the Kings; in fact, many Egyptian-styled crypts can be found from the 1920s when the world turned their heads to the discoveries being made in Africa. Beautiful statues carved from the skilled hands of stone workers are relics of the past, as simple plaques become more popular due to constraints in cemetery space, budget, and maintenance. I hoped to capture a few of these unique places while traveling around, and I think they fit perfectly into ephemera on this site.

This particular cemetery is private - used, although very rarely. Sliding past thick brush and a tall fence leads us to a dead-end road, with a small family crypt on one side. A larger crypt can be seen up ahead through the fall foliage - it is the final resting place of a 19th century railroad tycoon and his family.

Cornell's Hydraulic Lab

Clambering down some very icy cliffs that ended in shallow water was pretty dangerous... but there was a mysterious thing down in this gorge. An intriguing structure had been built into the cliff next to a pounding waterfall; the deterioration of the old stonework had almost blended it into the surrounding rock. Gaping holes decorated the rough surface in arched rectangles and ovals that were once windows. The steely gray day made a great opportunity for a few quick infrared photos...

Reperages

I came across this short video shot in an abandoned hospital near Paris, entitled Reperages, by Rémi Monedi - it features some nice low F-stop footage.

Consumption

Just a few days ago, the temperature was hovering at 100°F and the humidity was locked inside the old Tuberculosis hospital building, making the boards on the windows swell and peel. My flashlight scanned the darkness of the ward and caught something glimmering in the middle of the long, narrow room. I walked up, wiping the steady stream of salty sweat that was not refreshing in any way.

Two large glass jars were mounted upon a wooden base, along with two manometers (used to measure pressure). One of the bottles still had a cap, where nozzles were located to hook various tubes into. It was also filled with a yellow fluid. Intrigued, I brought the apparatus into the shaft of sunlight that streamed in from a window whose board had fallen off.

Continuous Bath Time

Most of the canvas straps still clung tightly to their large tubs which lined the basement room, despite the excessive sagging from thirty-seven years of disuse. Diffused rays of sunlight danced along the row of mummified bathtubs, yellowed with time and blackened with mold. A strange breeze wafted in from the dark, tiled morgue down the hall. There was no other place I wanted to be.

The Lobotomist

Another one of those things slipped by me and I hadn't thought of it until today - The Lobotomist, part of the American Experience series by PBS. It was aired on January 21, 2008, and documents the life of Walter Freeman - once described as the "Henry Ford of lobotomy."

Starting with his early career at St Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington D.C., the video follows his medical career as he "improved" upon Antônio Egas Moniz's method of the lobotomy. The quotes are to emphasize the differing point of view held between disapproving medical professionals, fervent followers of his method, and mixed blessings from lobotomized patients and their families. The documentary pulls all these perspectives in this well-produced documentary that I enjoyed watching (finally).

Village Theater

This "state village for the feeble-minded" (as it was called) opened in 1920, catering to girls and women with developmental disabilities or stricken with epilepsy. Although the hospital closed in 1998, the buildings have been continually monitored and maintained. Access to this recreation hall was surprisingly easy, considering the frequent security patrols inside the building.

Stepping inside the echoing hall, everything looked to be in good order except for some dust and a bit of peeling paint. Exit signs glowed in the distance... this space was definitely not abandoned; perhaps a better term would be "disused."

Counting the Years

I had been pouring copious amounts of research into abandoned places in Italy before returning this year, especially the former psychiatric hospitals (of course). A funny thing happened though... I had discovered a small abandoned complex consisting of two buildings in a rural town while looking at some maps. Nothing special, as there are plenty of these kinds of ruins scattered along the countryside, but I marked it down just in case I'd be driving by.

Then one day I found myself in the area, after a disappointing scouting trip to a handful of places that were being torn down. I pulled up to a tall wrought iron gate - a faded sign contained the words "ospedale psichiatrico," psychiatric hospital, and the rusty gate had been locked shut for some years. What amazing luck to have found this! The place was surrounded by a stone wall to prevent escape, but a small hole that had been smashed out - that definitely meant running in to catch the place in the fading sunset.

Welcoming Spring

Some thoughts while exploring an abandoned hospital complex that was constructed and closed in various decades, and saying goodbye to a couple feet of snow as spring approaches...

Water slowly filled the deep footprints in the snow behind me as I trekked up a snowy hill in the early hours of the morning; I didn't like leaving a trail but there was no choice in the matter. The tail end of a late February storm moved sluggishly along the horizon and blocked out the rising sun, creating a layer of gray on gray. If one looked hard enough, the first signs of spring could be seen through the monochrome landscape, and if one was interested, a gaping black hole into a recently abandoned hospital. Climbing in, I stood in a long empty hallway for a moment and listened for anyone who might be inside. Greeted only by dripping and creaking, I quickly moved through the maze of passages into the dark heart of the complex.