Images from the Asylum

Originally known as “Kings’ County Asylum” this huge complex is perhaps more commonly known as “The Psych Center.” The former Kings Park Psychiatric Center was the subject of some documentary projects and countless local ghost stories. Such stories are to be expected in the case of an asylum which grew in the heyday of the pre-frontal lobotomy and electroshock therapy. This now disused psychiatric hospital which was founded in 1885 as a partially self-sufficient “farm colony asylum” and grew to its peak in the 1950s is now part of a 520 acre state park. So with all that history, this project was a long time in coming. As anyone knows, the projects that are just around the corner, most convenient or ostensibly easy are not always the ones that we tackle in a timely manner. In my case this was about an hour and a half of photographing (and 2 or three hours spent in processing) about 5 minutes from my home. As a park, a few of the colony-asylum’s buildings have been renovated for use as offices and maintenance garages, but most remain barred, and boarded decaying and being slowly reclaimed by nature. This inevitable breakdown of our great human endeavors makes for wonderful imagery. With the fuzzy and dark history of this particular place, you can almost see the pain of its one time inhabitants.

It was many times that I had told myself this would be a great location to do some HDR images. Mostly this was because my running habit brought me through the park with great regularity. But like so many ideas, it seems the very convenience of it was what prevented my accomplishing it. Now that plans for dismantling many of the site’s buildings are underway, the deadline was set. So, again, a simple external force is what helps me overcome my resistance. Even so, I’m pretty excited by the images that turned out. I hope you enjoy them too.

Can’t stop, and isn’t that better?

A long hike to a campsite is meaningless if by the time you arrive you have enough time to get back before dark. 

If you’ve read this blog before or if you’ve ever worked with me on anything you know that I am a man who adores productivity. but more than that I love making stuff. If there is something new, or something seen anew in the evening that was not there in the morning I am a happy guy. Now, I’ve written in vague terms about how this quality has been a major source of frustration for me, but I think its time to be a bit more clear. Maybe it’s thanks to my friends at suggesting that I punch 2013 in the throat in my order confirmation (BTW, if you like wall calendars, check them out). Maybe I’m just growing up. Maybe (and most probably) I’ve just gotten sick and tired enough that now I’m ready to fix it. I have been looking for a way to build slowly and steadily my stable of skills and areas of expertise. But the truth that I have been avoiding like a seeing person with a blind man’s walking stick is that I have been lazy. I have been a lazy, do-nothing young 20-something with a blistering combination of intelligence and talent which I chose not to believe in. The fact of the matter is that nothing happens by accident, and I will not be satisfied enough to continue any of my creative endeavors if they never reach a critical mass. A long hike to a campsite is meaningless if by the time you arrive you have enough time to get back before dark. That is the real meaning of living with no plan B, its not that you had no other options, its that version A intentionally crosses the rubicon. And with a hearty program of goal-friending I have been spending more than a little time lately KICKING ASS! 

Right now, I’m taking a break between my two part time jobs today and the truth of the matter is that I cannot wait to get back to my many other projects. Now, to the other folks out there who have had to work multiple part time jobs, this may seem obvious. But up until last week I had found the time that I spent on these pursuits (which bare no particular importance for me) exhausting. I was arriving back at my base camp with exactly enough energy to feel bad about not being productive on my more important projects. Now, this week I had a lot of time on my hands (an extra day and a half free) due more to luck than good planning. But having slated those as real-work days and more importantly having followed through, I cannot wait to get back. I am more curious and more determined than I have ever been. 

The way things are going it looks like will soon have a new look, and some beautiful new functionality. My curiosity has lead into new learning, and so far it seems like the more I learn, the more work I have to do. There’s a bit of a pandora’s box quality to this whole website building thing.  The more research I do the more cool features there are to discover, and then once you learn to use them you get more serious about how to handle the rest of the places that feature might come in handy. But best and worst of all the more I learn to do the more content I am dreaming up. 

I had the opportunity to start playing with some of Nik Software’s suite of image editing software the other day. As work begins on dismantling a huge complex of condemned buildings on a giant, rolling, grassy property near my home I have been forced to head over there with my camera sooner than later. It was a longstanding intention of mine to do a set of photos there in what is now a state park, but the convenience of it got the better of me for a long time. Finally I was able to force myself out to do a little shooting on Monday. Then on Tuesday I ingested and began manipulating with Nik’s apps. That morning marks the return of the pure joy of MAKING. Joy in creating interesting and dynamic and exciting images from where there were gray skies and old buildings. My photography practice was back burner-ed in favor of sleep lately. Then, beginning on Tuesday morning after downloading Nik’s applications, that balance made a sudden turn for the tired and happy. And I have yet to see a curve in the path.

There is a word for that feeling, the feeling that you can’t stop. And that word is usually given as inspiration. But I am not talking here about aging something to say, or do or change, that draws everything out of you. Here we are talking about a state in which the pure act of doing, of making, of creating, or crafting gives you energy to continue, and to push yourself. Its much the same feeling one gets when on a long run, and you’ve gone further than you ever have before and you realize you’ll have an easier time continuing than you will stopping. 

There was a documentary made about the traveling stage production that Conan O’Brien launched while he was contractually prohibited from being on television. That film was called, “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop.” It is an hour and a half depicting the ripping pain, the screaming terror, the hopeless condition that is genius. The deadly seriousness and professional matter-of-factness of O’Brien’s lunacy is a beacon of hope for the rest of us creative types. Its funny to think of, but the truth is that a late-night host with a vaudeville streak 8 miles wide and brilliant hair is more inspirational to me than most anything else. I thought of this film and of Conan O’Brien the other morning while I was in my basement at work, at my computer, because right now, I CANT STOP.

What can’t you stop doing?