Friday, March 04, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Eastern State Penitentiary

It's my day at Author Expressions today, and I'm discussing setting and character viewpoints.

And here, Jason's taking us to the slammer, with some fantastic images. As always, I suggest you click on the images to enlarge -- and, better yet, go to Jason's gallery (link at the end of the post) Enjoy!

I recently visited some friends in Philadelphia where we spent a weekend doing "casual" photography. One of our stops was Eastern State Penitentiary. This prison opened in October 1829 and was one of the first institutions built to put inmates in a solitary situation "solitary confinement and labor." It uses a radial floor plan, with each cell block corridor extending outward from a central hub. By 1913, the system of "confinement with solitude" was abandoned in Pennsylvania.

Some of ESP's famous inmates include Al Capone, who spent eight months at the facility in 1929-30. His cell was well-furnished via his "connections" and it has been refurbished. Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot sentenced Pep, a "cat-murdering" dog, to ESP in 1924 for allegedly killing his wife's cat! ESP closed in 1970 and has been decaying ever since. It is open to the public for tours. If you want to photograph at ESP, there is a $10 tripod fee for photographing in public areas. Given the low level of light inside, a tripod is a good idea for photographers planning to visit there. You can also arrange a tour of the non-public areas, which is where many of these images were made.

Prisoner's Cell

Capone's Cell (restored)

Flooded Cellblock & Misty Corridor

Misty Corridor

Barber Chair

Solitary Desk

Cell block and watchtower


About the images:
My images from Eastern State Penitentiary were made using multiple exposures blended together in software via a technique called High Dynamic Range tone-mapping. This technique allowed me to capture the full range of tones inside ESP and also create interesting images that seem to look like painted works. You can see more images from this series on my website at:


Carol Kilgore said...

Prisons creep me out. I don't think I'd survive hearing the door close behind me. Al Capone...I guess there are advantages to having the right connections :)

Happy Weekend!

Jason Odell said...

I've been informed that my prints of some of these shots are not permitted to be hung in the house. :)

Terry Odell said...

Carol - capturing the creepiness is part of the allure of these shots.

Jason - not even next to the skulls?

Donnell Ann Bell said...

These pictures are amazing. How interesting that Capone's cell has such grandeur. As for the rest of the photos, they are enough to scare me straight! Well done!

Peg Brantley said...

These are fabulous. The color saturation . . . the comparison between a typical cell and Capone's. Beautiful!

Terry Odell said...

Donnell, Peg - I'm proud of his talents. I mean, there has to be some tiny DNA component, right!

Jason's a frequent Friday Field Trip contributor, and he's always got fantastic images to share.

Anonymous said...

Very nice. Jason is a wonderful photographer/artist.

Hmm...the first image reminds me of my very first apartment.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks for dropping by, Lee, and I know Jason appreciates your kind words. I'll bet your first apartment wasn't that bad--and if it was, Jason could have created an image to make it look good.

Jason Odell said...

It occurred to me that these cells really weren't that much smaller than my dorm room at UCLA, which I shared with two other guys!

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Terri: Great images. One could write a whole story gazing at that shot of Al Capone's restored cell.

Terry Odell said...

Joyce - I agree - and thanks should go to Jason. All I do is post them. He does all the hard stuff.

Chris Todd Miller said...

Captivating stuff--no pun intended (but appreciated), and so well rendered.

Terry Odell said...

Chris - thanks for stopping by. I come from a family of punsters, so no problem. Hope to see more of you here.

Chris Todd Miller said...

Your characters listen to Sarah? Love it! And Highlander fan fiction? Awesome. I'm a longtime Highlander fan. In fact, I'm working on an outline right now for a novel that involves an immortal.

Terry Odell said...

As a matter of fact, I even have a character named Sarah. Good luck with your novel. You lost me at "outline" Shudder.

Lelo Carter said...

I don't think you ever had this many comments ever.
I also thought the photos are very impressive,
but you know how I feel about Jason's talent.
GREAT work Jason!

Pat Marinelli said...

Delia Parr wrote a romance novel that started in this prison, back in its hay day. I couldn't wait to finish it to find out where the happy ending was. These pictures brought back that book. (shuddering here).

Great pictures, Jason. Old Al really had it rought, didn't he? I enjoy it when you post them.

Shannon said...

Those are some really creepy photographs.

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow! Those photos are amazing! Hard to imagine living or working in a place like that!

Jason Odell said...

Thanks for all the kudos, everyone!


Mason Canyon said...

Jason, as always your photographs are amazing. I never knew about Al Capone. I agree with Carol, it does pay to have connections.

Terry, another great field trip.

Thoughts in Progress

Amber said...

Stunning photos! I have wanted to investigate (paranormal) that location for a few years. You have definitely captured the essence of it.

Thank you for sharing!


Terry Odell said...

Mason - thanks to Jason.

Amber - I'll bet there are all sorts of ghostly possibilities.

Erika said...

These photos are amazing. What a great talent you have Jason.