On a cold December morning I met up with a long time friend who I haven’t seen in a while, ol’ Chuck aka Huck Photo. It would seem the older I get the more difficult it is for me to see certain people. People I used to see multiple times a week I am now lucky to see multiple times a year. I’m not sure who to blame for that. I am sure like in most things the blame lies with all parties involved, but I can’t help but feel that this society pulls us from the ones we care about. Or maybe it just forces us to make time between the errands, chores, and jobs to see one another. Regardless it is becoming increasingly difficult to see those I care about. But back to the day at hand.
We started off the day in some alleys in Uptown Harrisburg. Chuck wanted to shoot some urbex-ish photographs, a style I am not particularly fond of. Not to say I haven’t seen some dope stuff that could be classified as it, I just find personally I don’t like to see the atrophy that society leaves in its wake. As we were walking the trash strewn alleys, surrounded by smashed TV’s, broken bottles and countless articles of litter, a truck pulled up behind us and asked if we were going to get the corner cleaned up. I didn’t quite understand what he was asking, as I didn’t yet have my coffee, but Chuck responded that “it’s not our department”. Apparently the guy in the truck thought we were from the city. I guess I can’t blame him. Two guys who aren’t from the neighborhood walking around with cameras; I would have probably thought we were from the city as well.
After leaving Uptown we headed to the Harrisburg State Hospital aka the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital. The hospital is no longer functioning and now it seems to be a hodgepodge of rehabs and office space for state employees. The rehabs are for those trying to get clean, not for state employees, in case I wasn’t being clear. Although I’m sure at some point past, present or future, a state employee has been in a rehab. But I digress. As we explored the grounds, being careful to avoid any areas we weren’t allowed to be in, I was confronted by an unseen pressure.
Admittedly I didn’t, and still don’t know much about the hospital and its occupants; but as we walked through seemingly empty grounds I couldn’t help but feel a pressure wherever I went. It was as if 1000 people were staring at me at the same time. You know that subtle and constricting pressure you feel when you’re being watched. Perhaps it was the pressure, or the really flat light and blown out sky coupled with my desire to be more selective with my shooting, but I didn’t make too many photographs on the grounds.
I figure to keep things simple I’ll just display the images I made in chronological order, sans the very first image of Chuck’s portrait at the top. As you can see in the above image the light was extremely flat. The contrast I managed to achieve was in large part to the post processing I did. Occasionally, on images I like but are just missing something, I like to push the limits on the post work. Overall I’m happy with how it turned out and I feel like it carries the bleakness that was felt while in the complex.
As you can see in the image above the sun managed to poke out occasionally, but not fully, creating just enough shadows to work with. The architecture there is incredible. The closest thing I can equate it to is the size and layout of a college campus. Grand brick buildings surrounding common areas and sidewalks. We only saw a couple people there that day. People who appeared to be residents of the rehab, some state workers walking around on their lunch break, and the EMS and police officers as they rolled some unfortunate soul from the rehab out on a stretcher to an ambulance. It would seem to me that having a drug rehab on the grounds of an ex-lunatic asylum may not be the best idea. Essentially you are placing vulnerable people who are doing battle with their own demons, smack dab in the middle of an orgy of tragedies and terrors of its previous inhabitants.
After we left the hospital we drove around the city. Chuck took photos and I talked a bunch. It had been so long since I had seen him that I was more interested in catching up than I was on making photographs. We pulled to the side of the road, hopped out and headed to a bridge overlooking a section of train tracks. As we approached the bridge we were both smacked in the face by a pungent and familiar aroma, natural gas. The closer we got the more it began to smell. Halfway across the bridge and walking towards us was an official looking guy in a hard hat, green vest and a camera around his neck. He greeted us and asked once again, albeit this time more directly, if we worked for the city. When we responded no, he asked us if we were the ones who poured the concrete to house the new pipeline. Again we responded no. We let him know we were just out taking photographs to which he responded he was a bridge inspector for Amtrak. He pointed to a couple of places on the bridge and said the concrete was crumbling and the steel was rusting out. I know our infrastructure is in bad shape, but it is quite different when you’re standing there and a trained professional is point it out. We bid him adieu and kept it moving.
The last placed we stopped for the day was a random clapped out building along some random back street. The first thing I noticed as I hopped out of the car was a rusted orange door surrounded by cinderblocks. Immediately the colors and textures struck me and I began snapping.
To the left of the door was a large section of broken windows that allowed you to peer into the building. Chuck shot the windows first and then I came in and shot them; careful not to shoot the same photos he did. There is nothing worst than photographing with other people and they love shooting over your shoulder, jacking your frame. Not that I’ve had it happen too often, but it is something I do not want to perpetuate, ever. I have yet to see his photos from the day, but I am fairly confident they are different than mine.
There is nothing like reconnecting with an old friend. It was great seeing Chuck. And despite me not shooting most of the day I managed to get some shots that I dig, plus it was another chance to get more familiar with my a7ii. The last shot of the day was an environmental portrait of Chuck. I snapped 2 different photos at different focal lengths and was pleased with the results. I was commenting all day how I like flat light for outdoor portrait work. I love how the entire sky becomes a softbox. We shared good laughs, good conversation and I’m still laughing at us being mistaken for representatives of the city. As if either of us is official enough for that!