Friday, March 27, 2009

Eastern State Penitentiary Workshop

The rusty bars, peeling paint, crumbling walls and rotting relics of Eastern State Penitentiary,  are the narrators of the story about the nations first prison. It is a design that inspired the blueprints of well over 200 prisons around the world, a center "hub" with cellblocks extending outward like the spokes of a wheel. It is the place where Al Capone was incarcerated, it is the birthplace of "reform" and it is where the term "penitentiary" (from penance) was first coined. The first stones were laid in 1822 and the last of it's prisoners were transfered in 1971. Some believe it to be haunted and it certainly fits the perception of what many think a ghost's residence should look like, never the new Walmart, ghosts need history to accumulate.... I guess. There was a film crew there in fact, filming a new episode of one of the many popular ghost hunting shows. A few movies have used the location as a backdrop as well. What better place to hold a Small Strobes Big Results Workshop?
The cost per day for the location meant we needed to fill the class beyond our normal 12-15 attendees, no problem, demand was high. Even after adding a second workshop to the schedule we were still regretfully having to tell some photographers that there just wasn't any more room. Perhaps a return trip is in the near future, but first, San Francisco, Orange County, and Denver ( still room for more in those workshops).
We arrived on Wednesday, checked into the hotel and promptly headed out to visit some of the city's famous attractions. First stop was Geno's Steaks for a world famous steak and cheese "wiz wit"..... thats Cheese Wiz with onions. Pretty tasty! We returned the next day to try the sandwich from Pat's, the rivalry between the 2 establishments has quite a history and is apparently debated by the residents with fervor. We wanted to form our own opinions on the matter and 3 out of 3 tasters decided unanimously..... Geno's!
Thursday afternoon we were able to visit the prison and with our own personal guide we toured and scouted the entire place. Thursday night we were scheduled for a lecture/talk/picture showing at the local chapter of the ASMP. The turn-out was remarkable and the night was extremely enjoyable. Thanks to all those involved!
Friday it was time for the show, 4 hours of class time sharing our many grip gear secrets, talking about quality of light, and then it was off to Eastern State for the location portion of the workshop. Seeing the photographers walking around wide eyed, shutters clicking, peeping heads into cells to see what neat pic could be found, was for sure a great payoff after so much planning.
We had already decided on our first location for the day following our scouting the day before and within the first half hour we had a shot in the can. The juxtaposition of a beautifully dressed young lady within the decaying cellblock  was a great way to start and it seemed to charge the photographers creative batteries.

We got perhaps a half dozen other shots, moving from one cellblock to another, before our time there had expired and it was off to the pub/restaurant across the street with most of the attendees joining us for dinner and discussion of everyone's favorite subject.
Saturday was more of the same, different models, some new backdrops, and a whole new set of photographers. Dinner was even more popular than the night before with all but maybe 2 attendees joining us for a couple of hours at Jack's Firehouse again.
Sunday found us with most of the day to do as we pleased before a late flight back to Denver. We chose to head Downtown and visit the famous buildings and pathways of our founding fathers. We walked the streets of Philly, enjoyed a great lunch, and it was off to the airport for a long flight home.