Lorton Prison used to house all of DC’s prisoners, but shortly after the turn of the millenium, the prisoners were dispersed to other sites around the country, the prison was closed, and the land and buildings turned over to Fairfax County. Since that time, some of the facilties have been torn down and the land turned into parkland or sold off for condos. Part of the facility has become a (struggling) center for the arts, and now the old maximum security site is destined to be torn down in the near future. Over the last couple of months, Fairfax County has permitted several groups of photographers to enter the old facility and capture what images they can before the place disappears. Last month, I joined a group organized by Corey Hilz. We had just about three hours to shoot in two different locations. Before entering the maximum security section, a number of us spent about 90 minutes shooting in the old prison heating plant. It was my first time at this site, and quite frankly I had a difficult time “getting into the place”. I took a lot of photos, but nothing really captured my imagination. Now, several weeks later, two photos have kind of filtered to the top of the heap, but I am not fully satisfied with either. I like them as photographs, but they do not convey a sense of place – neither of them say “prison” – that is why I am going back again next weekend. I guess that makes me a recidivist.
This first shot was taken on my way out of the heating plant. I looked up and noticed that several of the pipes around the boilers were color coded. I thought I would try my hand at making the overall scene monochrome, and then adding back the colors of the pipes.
This second shot is pretty straight forward. It is part of the outside wall of the maximum security section of the facility. In general, it is just a simple brick wall containing several buildings and a large, empty expanse of grass. This section, with the rusting metal piece in the middle, and painted lower half was different than the rest of the wall. I took the original photo straight on, and then cropped it into a more balanced, square format. There is no sight of the outside – that strip of blue sky at the top is all the residents of this place ever saw.
My friend Craig Rudlin and I will be going back there this coming weekend, where I hope to this time get some images that convey the sense of the location better than what I have so far.