Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia PA   4 comments

My wife asked me what I wanted to do this past Sunday, my 55th birthday.  I chose (somewhat bizarrely according to my next door neighbor and friend, Tom) to visit one of the photography spots that has long been on my must-see list, Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.  ESP operated from 1829 to 1971, and is now a Philly tourist attraction.  A national historic landmark, ESP was “home” to such notables as Al Capone and Willie Sutton.  Founded on the Quaker principles that any man could see the errors of his ways with enough solitude, reflection, and penitence, Eastern State Penitentiary apparently had a hard time convincing its residents as evidenced by the number of escape attempts through the decades.  This included a twelve-man escape through a somehow undiscovered 97 foot long tunnel in 1945.

The photography opportunities at ESP are wonderful, but are best obtained with the benefit of a tripod and long exposures due to the low lighting in the cells and hallways.  Every photo below was taken with a tripod, some exposures pushing 30 seconds.  Many of the images are three photos (0 EV, +2 EV, -2 EV) merged together with Photomatix HDR software.  That is one of the reasons that I ended up with 208 photos in approximately 5 hours (and that’s after erasing poor exposures on site).  I highly recommend Eastern State Penitentiary for any photographer or history buff.  I’ll be going back since I only covered about half of the grounds during our visit.

All photos: Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, PA (my photographer’s agreement requires me to say that!)


Posted April 16, 2012 by ~ Bruce in Architecture, Travel Photography, Uncategorized

4 responses to “Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia PA

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  1. the photo with a chair is really nice!

  2. Excellent photos! There’s just something about abandoned public institutions that instills a very uniform fear and intrigue in me. This post also reminds me of the trip James and I made to the Athens Lunatic Asylum (now called “The Ridges”) in Athens, OH. While there, I also learned about a photography book you may be interested in checking out sometime: “Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals”. The photographer visits these immense chunks of architecture that were solely designed for housing the mentally disturbed and you get eerie peeks inside the crumbling walls and shadows. (There’s also a website for the book which gives lots of sample photos from the exhibition which is traveling the country.)

    • Thanks, Jason! I’ll have to remember the asylum in Athens for the next trip to Ohio. Sounds like exactly the kind of place I’d enjoy visiting and photographing. I totally agree with you about abandoned public institutions — there’s just something so fascinating about these time capsules into our past. I hope you are well, and please give my best to James!

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