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”.
Autumn or fall, whatever your word of choice, it’s the time for nature’s colorful explosion. With this comes an expectation of change. The drop in temperature and the shift in time, signal the season. Fall can be very subtle, to outright in your face bursting with color. To further explore this new season, I traveled to the Canaan Valley of West Virginia at Blackwater Falls State Park. I was there on a photographic workshop run by Joe Rossbach and Alex Mody, two very creatively gifted and knowledgeable photographers. With their guidance and insight to the best that this area had to offer, I was off to find my own take on autumn’s splendor.
I was greeted by waterfalls with swirling eddies, to sweeping vistas of color that were back-lit by overwhelmingly beautiful sunrises. This was by far the most stimulating environment I had visited in hopes of capturing the seasons glow. Morning mist presented a new visual experience for fall color, and I had to embrace a more subtle composition. With so many different hues, at times I was a bit hard pressed to separate the luminosity and create a unique vision of this time of the year.
The endless color combinations that stood out challenged my sense of place. But in the end, a true understanding of how the seasons change, came into focus. Front and center, far and wide, subtle and bursting, this autumn’s show proved to be both inspirational and a visual moment for me. Thanks to mother nature, I can once again view life thru my new ‘rose colored’ glasses.