Saturday, November 22, 2014


PHOTOGRAPHER’S JOURNAL: Back in April I visited Pennhurst State School and Hospital, commonly known as Pennhurst Assylum. I posted 6 photos then (click & scroll to mid-page). I had more photos to post at the time, but I chose to move on because the images became too dark to post, or at least too dark to post day after day after day. It’s a fair question to ask, “Why post at all?”

I have good friends, supportive of my photography who cheer me on when images are sunny but try to pass dark subjects by, and occasionally someone who knows me less well will ask in kindness, “Is everything OK?" One only has to look at the state of the world to know everything is not OK, but I’m fine, and thank you. We follow the news in order to understand and to remain compassionate, and we continue to function normally, even when we are helpless to know how to fix the world. My natural buoyancy lets me use my camera to explore the past that lies around me, a time traveler lingering in another age to try and understand where we came from and to grasp hold of the metamorphosis that is existence. I like things lost or abandoned and anything with a coating of dust or rust, peeling paint or the patina of age. I’ve been attracted to dried up beetles and festering water lilies, things we have been or are made from or might become. It’s sometimes a graveyard shift and well suited to my dullness or my sanguinity.

I went to Pennhurst largely ignorant of its special history but interested to find out what it had to teach me about a very different kind of human condition. When I came into this space what struck me immediately were the walls, flat metal panels rusted to the color of puke, the blankness of them and the lack of horizon. Even where there were windows, they were small breaks in the flatness of the walls. There were some wheelchairs and beds on wheels with rails to keep people from rolling out, and some walkers. I placed one of the walkers where the panels made an intersection and began composing images.

There are many things one may think at such a crossroad, the worst must be to think you are alone, forgotten by the living and the dead.


Ginnie said...

The thing is, we really don't understand the light without the dark! So, for me, your ventures off into these dark lanes are educational, even while sobering. We have much to learn from the sufferings of others. If we don't learn how to make a better world, what have we learned?

Keep on with these treks into the past, Ted, because they amaze me by their "darkness" and their "light."

Emery Roth II said...

What a wonderful comment you have added! I do expect to continue. Thank you.