Eastern State Penitentiary (personal model photo shoot project)

Medical Ward

Medical Ward

While doing research for a photo shoot project I came across an idea for another project. It was actually more of a “stumble upon” type of thing. As some of you who read my Facebook page know I had went to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. I went there to scout locations within the prison to photograph a model. I accidentally came across the ESP website while looking for locations in Philly’s Fairmount section. I noticed that the site had a listing of event and seen that August 19 would be the last of three photographer’s only events. After they close to the public at 5:00pm they open the prison to photographer who wants to shoot without the public in the way and you can bring models and shooting equipment. This is totally prohibited during regular hours.  So I thought what a novel idea and decided to think more about it.

So the project has now been in the planning for a little more than a month. I upped it a little when I decided to contact a local Philly designer Lisa-J and ask her if she wanted to come onboard with my project. She is an up and coming clothing designer and I had seen some of her work and we had talked about shoot prior to my idea but nothing ever came to life. So I sent her a text with the question and I had to laugh at her reply “yes, yes & yes.” We met at the prison one morning and walked aimlessly around and talked while I photographed potential location. I told her I had a model already picked out who was also jumping at the chance. But I still needed hair & makeup. Well… wouldn’t you know Lisa’s aunt who is a hair stylist and was actually scheduled later that same day to do a shoot with me and a model. Wow small world in the city of brotherly love. So it was a done deal and I told Lisa she should bring a model as well and we’ll shoot two.

Now prior to this I had asked Bethlehem, PA model Reese Maddox if she wanted to do a shoot at ESP and her face lit up, I didn’t need to hear her answer, her look was the answer. Funny!

So now we have a plan… well sort of. Next thing is; how the hell am I going to shoot in this prison. My goal… yes I have a goal. My goal is to try and I emphasize “try” to get a shot that has not been done before. Not easy considering this place is one of the most photographed places in Philly and the USA. Rock performer Sting shot an album cover (All This Time) there. I’m going to make one more trip back to the prison to check locations and get detailed info of what I can & cannot do there. Hopefully they won’t kill my project before I get started. ESP is really strict about their rules. While there with Lisa, my camera in hand, an employee came up to us and said “you do know you can’t shoot models here during regular hours.” Not to worry your little head there scooter we’re doing research. And he eased off.

So that is where the project is at this point. How do I pull this off? Flash, softboxes lens choices? There are many things to think about. I want to go light on the gear; I was thinking one softbox 2 radio flash, 24-70 lens and possibly the 70-200 lens.

What kind of shots will they be? I’m hoping for some nice photos of the models with emphasis on the wardrobe and capturing the decrepit-ness of the prison. Easier said than done, but I’ll give it my best.


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