Ephemera

Anything and everything else related to Opacity.

A Peaceful War On Mental Institutions via NPR

Last December, NPR ran a very interesting story on the World War II pacifists who were sent to work at state hospitals by the government, specifically focusing on a man named Charlie Lord and his exposé on the Philadelphia State Hospital (Byberry). Mr. Lord managed to sneak a small Agfa camera in his pocket to show the world what the conditions inside Byberry were like behind closed doors; his drive was to promote the quality of life for these patients and others in similar institutions. These photos, initially shown to Elanor Roosevelt, spurred public outrage when they were published in LIFE magazine's article Bedlam 1946.

The story at NPR put much more context behind the images, and also include some detailed letters written by another conscientious objector, Warren Sawyer. Lord's photos (some of which did not appear in LIFE) were also displayed in a slide show. Follow the links below to NPR's story:

Bannerman's Island Arsenal Collapses Once More

On January 25th, more of the Bannerman's Arsenal delicate facade crumbled to the ground during a winter storm. This followed a previous collapse of a corner of the main tower on December 26th. Senator Charles E. Schumer met with members of Bannerman's Castle Trust Inc. to discuss the need and importance of preserving the structure, and is lobbying for federal funding and to secue the island as one of the 11 most endangered sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

An interesting quote from a tour guide was found in this YouTube video:

When we first came to the island we started to clean up we started pulling these vines down that you see on the sides of the building... we had an architectural engineer come on the island and took a look at that, he said 'You'd better not pull those vines down, they're probably holding the building up.' He also told us something else interesting. If you take a look at these buildings, again remember what I said, Mr. Bannerman would draw a picture of it and say 'Build me this.' Well, he knew the space that was left between the building, so sometimes you'd have a building that was like a parallelogram, sometimes you'd have trapezoids, all different geometric shapes. So the architect told us that what was happening was these buildings were leaning against each other, and that's what's holding them up.

Were the vines really holding the building together after the masonry eroded away from between the bricks? If so, perhaps this mistake can be prevented in the future with other similar ruins (nearby Renwick Smallpox Hospital comes to mind, whose wall collapsed in January 2008).

Thanks to Xydexx for finding that quote and the research. More photos of the collapse can be found at Hudson Valley Ruins.

Dead Rollers

I'd like to share a collaborative book that showcases photographs of gurneys in abandoned hospitals, called Dead Rollers. The hand-crafted book is part of the Transport exhibition at Proteus Gowanus in Brooklyn, NY. Along with the photographs, it also features straps from an abandoned gurney stitched into the cover.

Lunar Detroit

It's been a while since I've frozen my ass off taking photos during a winter full moon, so I ventured out a few months ago to try my hand at some stuff in Detroit. I expected the results to be disappointing due to the amount of light pollution in the city, but I think some came out pretty good - a few places actually caught the natural moonlight instead of the streetlamps. I hope to try a lot more of this before spring rolls around.

Abandoned Churches

I'm working on some photos of an abandoned church in Gary Indiana, and wondered how many of these amazing places exist throughout the world. These churches can range from a small single room to vast spaces with multiple levels, and sometimes encompass a school, convent, or rectory. Many can be found at psychiatric hospitals, which often catered to all different faiths; surprisingly I have come across very few abandoned synagogues, most being inaccessible.

Most of these structures hold extravagant details in their woodwork, stone, or massive pipe organs, and the abandonment of this craftsmanship is often astounding. So, I've pulled together photographs of these abandoned chapels or churches I've found along the way, and hope you enjoy them!

Abandoned Legs

These metal braces and prosthetic limbs once helped residents of these hospitals move around daily; and so they became extensions of their own bodies, made of heavy steel and cracked leather. Perhaps considered clumsy by today's medical standards, they still retain an indescribable elegance...

Taunton State Hospital

The last intact Kirkbride building in Massachusetts is being torn down in Taunton. Although a fire ravaged the central administration portion of the building, the rest of the structure was intact and held some fantastic scenes as well as wonderful vintage objects from its past. It will sorely be missed.

Opacity Overhauled

I've just about completed a total overhaul of the website, which was long overdue. Although the site looks pretty similar to the older version, many improvements have been made; some not as noticable as others, but hopefully they will enhance your experience here. Read more for a full list of new features.