This abandoned prison in Philadelphia housed some of America’s most infamous gangsters, including Al Capone. Full of its fair share of spooky stories and escape attempts, this massive complex is now classified as a ‘living ruin’. With a favor from a friend, I was given behind-the-scenes access to some of the closed off areas and here are the results!
My favorite places to shoot are abandoned buildings and structures. The changing scenery and the way nature always reclaims human influence is a great thing to try capturing on film. Plus, I have probably watched too many zombie apocalypse movies and any excuse to poke around in these old places is a good one.
This time I am off to the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia where my friend works as a guide for the small portion that is open to the public. Due to decades of decay after its closure, many sections are closed off for safety reasons. These are the best areas because of the “virgin material”. Many cells still had furniture, magazines, cleaning materials, even moldy 40-year-old pillows!
Its revolutionary system of incarceration was the first to establish the policy of separate confinement, emphasizing principles of reform rather than punishment. Notorious criminals such as bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone were held inside its unique wagon wheel design. When the building was erected it was the largest and most expensive public structure ever constructed, quickly becoming a model for more than 300 prisons worldwide.