Okay, it’s probably about time I introduced the third of the Galleries I’ve stuck up here so far. It’s the most interesting, you know. I mean that, it’s not just me trying to keep you looking after you’ve already grown bored with the other stuff and wandered off to play with the other kids with the really cool toys. Trusies, this one is good.
This photo series was taken on location at an abandoned lunatic asylum – so how can it not be good???
That was it’s original name, of course: Aradale Lunatic Asylum, way back in, oh, 1865 I think they first registered patients. The name changed fairly regularly though, as fashions in approaches to mental illness changed, like, you know, actually treating it as an illness, for starters. From memory (though I should warn you, my memory is a fickle beast with a hidden agenda and rarely to be trusted), it was ordered closed down about 15 years ago, under reforms to move the mentally ill out of such massive, closed-door institutions and into community based care.
You can still see crumbling notices on forgotten staff notice boards with details of redundancy packages. The place has been shut up since then, for the most part, with only the occasional photographer or ghost hunter to disturb the growing dust.
Ooooh, that reminds me… did you know, I wanted to be a ghost hunter when I was little? Well, obviously you didn’t know, because you actually don’t know me from the proverbial body-cleansing bar of lard, but the ghosties of the world and me, we have an understanding. I promise not to totally rule out that there could be more to this heaven and earth etc., and they will one day sit down with me for a chat, maybe over a cup of tea or something. (Hopefully not over a chessboard, though. That has some bad connotations. Besides, I’m crap at chess, though I wonder if they’d substitute trivial pursuit instead…)
Of course, none of this has ever actually eventuated, but the six year old me was very determined to see a ghost one day and despite all that growing up and becoming rational and stuff, it’s a desire I’ve never quite been able to conquer.
Didn’t see any at Aradale though. Bummer.
Anyway, leaving aside childhood fantasies and disappointment at not coming across a single bit of haunted building anywhere, (not one brick floating through the air, I tell you, not one shimmering apparition on the stairs), it’s a stellar location for some dark and spooky photography.
Cue that cool Tim Minchin track here.
There were a lot of us there that weekend, ‘twas a group photography excursion organised by the lovely Melissa Kirkham and it attracted everyone from the architectural photographers to the goth photographers to the glamour model photographers. Except Dear Partner decided to bring the moving-pictures camera instead, so he only shot video this time around and left the models at home in the cupboard.
(See below at the bottom of this post – I’ve embedded the vid he made of the day.)
From all accounts, it was a marvellously successful weekend. Except for the inevitable online fallout a few days later, heh. Oh the tears, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth. Of course, it was probably always to be expected, particularly as many who attended were active in the same online forums, and what else are online forums for, if not flame wars? See, there the Goths and the conservatives and the arty types and the historians all there side by side, and let us just say that a few aesthetic impulses, uh, clashed.
There were some that felt offended by others chasing the horror shot. But if you head out with a large, divergent group of different artists to an abandoned Victorian-era institution and you think some of them are not going to go the fake blood and zombie imagery, then you’re not as in touch with human nature as you think you are. I mean, the place has it’s own on-site morgue – a location so popular they had to draw up a roster for those who wanted to shoot there, including those of a more conservative bent – so of course there was going to be a parade of play-acting-dead shots there.
Is that disrespectful to those who died there and ended up in that morgue?
Were the fake-blood, fake-insanity shots disrespectful to the suffering of the thousands upon thousands who were incarcerated in this place over the 150 or so years the place was in operation?
No more than the rest of us trooping around gawking at crumbling paintwork, waxing lyrical with our dodgy understandings of the history of the place and mining it for our own artistic inspiration.
So sue me if you disagree, but either not a single shot taken that weekend was disrespectful, or they all were.
To my mind – and it’s my blog, so that’s what counts, nyah – disrespect would have been breaking windows or ripping doors from hinges to get a better shot, or spray painting walls or kicking a hole in the floor because that better suited your artistic vision. But that wasn’t what happened. Everybody there, from the Goths to the high arty types, were in awe of the place. So if some of the more alternative photographers used a bit of fake blood and showed a fascination with sex, death and insanity, well, they’re not exactly the first to be obsessed with such in their art.
Well, you get the picture, especially as, in my usual fashion, I’ve all but blown it up to billboard size and stuck it just outside your bedroom window surrounded by flashing neon. Fact is, a location such as Aradale makes people think about such things. It slams them down in front of you and confronts you with the darkest of them. And call me postmodern and whack me with a salmon, but if it’s okay to create what you consider high art out of it, then it’s also okay to create a zombie scene.
Anyway, have a look at the shots from some of the other photographers and make up your own mind. That’s what it’s there for, after all.
And while you’re here, have a look at the video Dear Partner put together about the day we were there: