My photo blog… visual thoughts around me.

“Bringing an Asylum Back to Life”

"Open Door Policy"

“Open Door Policy”

 

When visiting a place that has any history I always try to find the back story and related articles that can shed light on the subject. Letchworth Village is one such place. It is located in Rockland County, NY which for me was about a 2 and a half hour drive from my South Jersey home. While driving, I ran through some facts about my destination in my mind so I could better visualize the place, and try to figure out how to document it when I arrived. Opened in 1911 as a state of the art facility for the mentally ill, it closed in 1996 amid documented abuse of the patients and staff. Like many of the facilities from this time, the word asylum was to offer sanctuary and protection for its patients, but over time this shelter became a house of horrors for many. For me, growing up and reading the after effects of these places, the word “asylum” took on a whole other dark and menacing connotation.

After finally arriving, I had wanted the day to be gloomy and overcast, so to set the mood and background to what I perceived my experience would be. A little disappointed, I was greeted with a beautiful sunrise and bright skies. The initial look and feel of the place was anything other than beautiful. The buildings and grounds showed the decay and overgrowth that I had expected. What was unexpected was the way the ivy created a brilliant backdrop of different shades of red, yellow and orange. This impact of color, along with the decay, let my mind travel in a different direction. Suddenly the colors complemented the decay and changed the mood from melancholy to a more uplifting outlook on this place. Exploring, by myself and with other photographers, the many buildings and fall colors became a driving force in helping me find the beauty that existed in the exterior of this so-called sanctuary. Finding refuge from the bright outside light in a huge 3 story power plant, I began to feel its dark side only to be startled by the almost heavenly, broken and dirt stained windows. Again and again the light and colors blurred the lines between the past and the present.

This dichotomy of decay, sunlight,fall colors and disturbing history brought an almost uplifting shift to my compositions. I can’t thank Marty Joffee of AIP enough for making this available to us and also letting me shed a different light on the often horrendous side to the word “Asylum ”. Depending on our perspective, we can dwell on the “what was” or, as I hope my photos will help you, choose to view the beauty of life and “what is”.

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31 responses

  1. WOW! What an incredible place; so full of history. You captured the essence well! You are absolutely right, the Fall color provides a brilliant back drop!

    Liked by 1 person

    January 4, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    • Thanks Cynthia… the place seemed to know it was saying goodbye before winter set in.

      Like

      January 11, 2016 at 8:34 pm

  2. So many fine images – you found a great place here t shoot, my favorites are the abstract ones….

    Like

    December 1, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    • Hey Truels nice to hear from you… yep… the abstracts draw me in also!!!!

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 8:04 pm

  3. As you know, Mike, these are not my scenes but I am impressed with the compositions and the quality. I particularly enjoyed the angle and color splash of #5, and the blue splashes in #19.

    Like

    November 19, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    • Well my friend… those window panes were shot with a love hate relationship. As you know the intensity of the sun can limit what detail one can bring out. I was just happy to have a workable composition.

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 8:03 pm

  4. Super post and intriguing venue! The ivy in its fall display certainly was a wonderful gift and addition. I especially LOVE your 7th photo.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 18, 2015 at 10:44 am

    • That ivy was everywhere and we caught it at the right time. Its funny how these places have been there, but I still can not get to most of them before they are torn down!!!!

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 7:59 pm

  5. Glorious decay my friend …fascinating thoughts …blessings and love , megxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    November 17, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    • Great Meg… glad it had an effect on your senses!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      December 1, 2015 at 7:56 pm

  6. Not sure what I was thinking while viewing your post. I was feeling entranced and reminded of a world of asylums used for social/political deviants. Thank you for your perspective.

    Like

    November 17, 2015 at 11:12 am

    • Yes… having shot a couple of these places ,I know where you are coming from… thanks for staying in touch Dianne.

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 7:55 pm

  7. It really is amazing that the word “asylum’ has translated the human experience into one of horror and sadness. Interesting post.

    Like

    November 16, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    • Glad to see that word resonates with you also Larry.

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 7:53 pm

  8. robertldoc

    As always lovely work. Keep it up Bob Levy

    >

    Like

    November 16, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    • Thanks for the follow Bob… always looking to where you have traveled next.

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 7:52 pm

  9. Pretty decay at its finest. Great collection.

    Like

    November 16, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    • Even I can do pretty with the right amount of grime!!!!

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 7:51 pm

  10. Carolyn Scull

    Mikie,
    I open my phones this morning and the first thing I read was your blog about these pictures. After your description of the place I thought maybe I’ll look at them later but I couldn’t help myself I had to see what you have captured through your mind and camera.
    The first picture is the one. Can’t imagine going up steps to the front door & looking up at the crisp blue autumn sky you captured in your other picture.
    Thanks for sharing

    Like

    November 16, 2015 at 10:24 am

    • LOL… you should try finding your way out… that can be tricky at times. Thanks for the comments Carol.

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 7:50 pm

  11. Bob D

    Once again Mike you capture the darkness (images 3&4), the mystery and yes, the beauty of decay.

    Like

    November 16, 2015 at 8:59 am

    • Very well said Bob… big thanks.

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 7:47 pm

  12. Here is another case of you and I tackling the same subject and coming up with very different results. I love your take on this place and your ability to adapt what you see and the conditions your are working in into your amazing photographic vision. I particularly love how you blended the beauty of the fall colors into the decay of the buildings. Your opening photograph…Brilliant, out of the box use of that software!

    Liked by 1 person

    November 16, 2015 at 7:53 am

    • Great eye Rich… you would not believe how many versions I have of that first pic… but knowing you, I know you would understand. It still fascinates me how a place will play out from one hour to the next.

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 7:46 pm

  13. Very interesting and great photos too. I adore that first one. Really great!

    Like

    November 15, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    • Yep… Laura… if I were to pick one that would be it for me too!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      December 1, 2015 at 7:42 pm

  14. Bonnie

    Wonderful Mike, as always

    Like

    November 15, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    • Not always but big thanks for thinking that way!!!

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 7:41 pm

  15. Mike,

    Very well done. Thanks for sharing.

    Marty

    mikepillowsphoto wrote: > MikeP posted: ” When visiting a place that has any history I always > try to find the back story and related articles that can shed light on > the subject. Letchworth Village is one such place. It is located in > Rockland County, NY which for me was about a 2 and” >

    Like

    November 15, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    • Thanks for staying in touch Marty.

      Like

      December 1, 2015 at 7:41 pm

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