Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mansfield Reformatory

I've been anxiously awaiting this blog post.  This experience was easily one of my photographic highlights of this year, if not of all time.  For those of you that don't know, the Mansfield Reformatory (also known as the Ohio State Reformatory), was the featured prison in the movie The Shawshank Redemption.  The cornerstone for the reformatory was laid on November 4, 1886 and it remained as a working prison for 94 years until it was eventually shut down in 1990. A staggering 154,000 inmates passed through the reformatory over its' years of operation. 

Many inmates have discussed the conditions of the prison, but perhaps the most dreaded and well known aspect of the reformatory was "The Hole."  "The Hole" was the area of solitary confinement cells that contained only a toilet and a bunk.  At least one murder occurred in "The Hole" and numerous other violent acts took place on the grounds.

The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society took control of the site in 1995 and have opened it up to the public.  Outside of the guided and self tours, they also host ghost hunter events and have a reception space for other events.  The reformatory is truly a site to see and I highly recommend it.

In my previous post, I briefly mentioned this experience.  Due to the Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society not allowing tripods or professional photo equipment on the self or guided tours, I paid the money for the photo tour.  I was allowed to bring a tripod and all of my photography gear and I was able to tour the grounds for four hours without any other tourists.  It was the most amazing experience.  This structure is absolutely amazing and the experience of photographing it by myself was the only way to shoot it.  I can't really describe it. 

During the four hours, I left my digital camera in the car and shot strictly film using my Canon AE-1P and a few of my Polaroid cameras.  Calming solitude are the perfect words for this experience.  I took my time wandering the winding hallways and never ending staircases.  I took only the shots that I viewed in my mind and I set it up to get the best possible exposure.  I didn't have to worry about time and I didn't have to worry about anyone getting into my shot.  I shot about a roll and 3/4 of a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 35mm film and I took approximately 10 Polaroids.  I couldn't wait to see the results!  I received them this week and I was very happy.  I actually want to go back and shoot the reformatory multiple times and I would love doing a future series on old prisons.  If anyone has the chance to visit the Mansfield Reformatory, I would highly recommend it. 

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