Medfield State Hospital
This post is about photographing at the Medfield State Hospital, a state mental hospital in Massachusetts closed years ago. For this series of blogs I am writing about a project in the making as opposed to presenting finished work, something new for me.
I have written four posts to date on the project:
The last time I went there to photograph was back in early July. Medfield is about 45 minutes away from where I live in Cambridge so it's easy to pick the time of day and the light. This time, a few days ago, I went at dawn. The place was wide open and very beautiful as the sun came up. Mid August in New England can be very lush if it isn't too dry and this year there's been enough rain to keep things green.
Sometimes when photographing outdoors it can just be so good; good to be outdoors, good to be in front of content that is wonderful, good to be looking through a camera at things that are interesting and challenging. I know I have to be careful of this seduction as just being pleased to be out in it isn't enough.
At any rate, I am beginning to get to the core of the place, with its prevailing red brick and green grounds.
There is power here and substance, real weight to the place and complexity too, as in below:
Funny, but I've walked by this several times (below), not noticing its potential for pictures, what looks to be the back of the dining hall and never known that these would serve as the core of my pictures in this project, or at least, what I believe is to be the core, the center of work that will flow out in a series within a series:
I think it took the right light for me to notice that this was here at all. Shocking that I could be so oblivious.
I am sure you can see I haven't been totally successful here on this back of a building in the center of the Hospital's campus. These two above lack refinement for me. There is more to do. But I did have the realization that this was it, like a light bulb going on. Why I was here and what I needed to do. I've had this so many times before: getting out of of a rented car parked on a hill with the Oakesdale Cemetery all around me before making a seminal group of photographs in the mid 90's, or Skate Park, made just last year looking at it trying to figure it out while it was empty in the sun on a school day in Healdsburg, CA. Or Summerhill, Atlanta, waiting there in my car, counting up how many rolls of film I would need before setting out to walk the streets one Sunday morning in the spring. That feeling of OMG! I am about to make pictures that count, that will add to my body of work, that will be a continuation and confirmation of what I believe in as a career artist, another in a stack of work that is the best I can do, as good as anything I have ever done. Compounding feelings of partial relief that I have discovered something of substance or that resonates once again countered with the fact that I've got a shitload of work to do!.This door opens and lets us in. It's the coolest thing of all.
I will close here with one that is perhaps a little more sentimental:
And another that is, I believe, brutal and made with some force:
Now this is beginning to get interesting.