Photo Essay

Light, a prisoner of time

crumbling cellblocks

The Eastern State Penitentiary located in Philadelphia, which opened in 1829, was a landmark prison of its time, abandoning corporal punishment and ill treatment. The proponents of the Penitentiary chose to subject their inmates to confinement in solitude with labor designed to create genuine regret and penitence in the criminals.

The prison's earliest cellblocks represent the first modern building in the United States. Seven cellblocks radiate from a central rotunda. Each prisoner had a private cell, centrally heated, with running water, a flush toilet, and a skylight. This was at a time when the presidential White House had no running water and was heated with coal-burning stoves.

The penitentiary's sky-lit cells housed some of the most notorious criminals including Al Capone. After 142 years of consecutive use, the prison was completely abandoned in 1971. It is now in a state of semi-ruin.

For this story, I focused on light and decaying elements of light fixtures along with crumbing cell blocks bathed in natural light at the penitentiary to provide us a glimpse of a world that once was.

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9 responses

  • Lynn H

    Lynn H (Deleted) gave props (26 Nov 2008):

    Interesting photos and essay!

  • Elise Ange

    Elise Ange gave props (27 Nov 2008):

    Well done, interesting theme!

  • Tiia Vissak

    Tiia Vissak gave props (28 Nov 2008):

    a great story! yes!

  • david ong

    david ong gave props (29 Nov 2008):

    u captured it so well, great story!

  • Tom Mertens

    Tom Mertens gave props (4 Dec 2008):

    I enjoyed your story. Nice job with such difficult lighting.

  • n n

    n n (Deleted) gave props (10 Dec 2008):

    Dominic, I admire your work on this story, as allways a splendid informative text and I`ve been really enjoying lookin at the pictures and I share your thing for the natural light. Yeah!

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (20 Apr 2009):

    Two thumbs way up...Yeah! It rocks!

  • MND Photography

    MND Photography gave props (11 May 2009):

    This is great work well done,you have some superb shots here, I would love to get in here and take some shots.

  • Brian Betteridge

    Brian Betteridge gave props (17 Oct 2009):

    these are great shots. I've got more than a few myself. love how you captured the details. great shots.

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