Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lorton Prison, VA, and an Artistic Evening

On Saturday DCUE met for a private tour around Lorton Prison which had its last prisoners transferred in 2001. It's been left abandoned since then but in upcoming months work will begin on developing the area so we were fortunate to get a look before it's changed forever. We were sharing the tour with a photography club and I was delighted to see MJ and Martin from the Vienna Photographic Society there. A couple of members came up to me recognizing me from the urbexing presentation I did at their group so it was great for them to experience DCUE and urban exploring first hand.
We condensed into cars and drove past the watch towers through the gates and parked on one of the roads inside. We discovered once we got out how bad my parking was, with one of Stuart's wheels almost hanging over a hole.
We watched as the guards started walking round the buildings clanking keys as they opened doors allowing us entry into many of the buildings. It felt a little odd not having to look for our own point of entry. I waited until the large group had dispersed a little then started wandering around the brick structures.
This photo was taken with the macro lens on my phone. There were some tiny plastic balls on the window sill with a piece of broken glass on top.
We were allowed access to many cell blocks, dormitories, the kitchen and laundry area. The area was pretty big and spread out. It was interesting to see so much of the graffiti left on the walls with scraps of personal belongings on the floors or tucked behind cupboards or hanging on bars. Apart from the writings and drawings on the walls I'm not sure how much of it was genuine or staged by previous photographers but there was still a sense of gloom hanging over the empty corridors and it was easy to imagine how claustrophobic the cells must have been. Many of them saw little daylight; I saw none with windows.
We were also allowed inside the old power plant, the only building which offered some color, albeit paint crumbling on the pipes and walls.
I ended up in some back rooms with water dripping from the ceiling and was so engrossed in exploring back there that when I returned to the cells everybody had gone on elsewhere so I was fortunate to have the place to myself for a while and set up some shots without anyone around. Fine at first but I soon got creeped out and called Emily almost begging to know where everyone had moved on to. I scurried down the road and was mightily pleased to see a security guard who pointed me in the right direction so that by the time I saw the others I was very happy to trot through some huge gates into the maximum security compound.
Many of the blocks here were the same and because I'd arrived so late I lost the opportunity to explore thoroughly but I was content enough to wander around some of them and work my lens until the whistle sounded the end of our visit. We were escorted out rather quickly and once our group was together naturally the next priority was food and beer.
We found a gyro place, filled our tummies and then the group broke up. Emily, Huggy and I were going down to Artomatic in the evening for Meet the Artist night but we had a little time to kill before then so we went with Lewis to find a nearby geocache. I have the application on my phone but this was the first time I'd used it and only the second cache I've ever looked for. This was a nano cache, something tiny, but we followed the compass on our phones and ended up by a pond and a deck where we all immediately became engrossed in locating the treasure. Lewis spotted it first and it took a good 5 minutes before I found it too. It was tiny!
There are 2 bolts on this post and the top one had a magnetic cache attached to it. We signed the log and entered the details on the application. I really have to get more involved with this activity, there's so many caches around Marshall and at work that I have no excuse. Well I do, lack of time.
Later that evening we got to Artomatic and each spent time by our walls answering questions and talking about our projects. To be honest, the place wasn't as busy as I'd hoped and I've wondered if 1300 artists on 10 floors is really too many. Last Saturday while working on the 11th floor, I had people come up saying that they were just too overwhelmed.
I didn't take many photos, just these flowers made of cassettes caught my eye. A couple of Emily's friends, James & David came down from NYC and we hung out with them for the rest of the evening touring various floors and drinking beer, and laughing. We spent a lot of time laughing.
I thought I was seriously wilting after my long day but after Artomatic we realized we hadn't had any dinner so 6 of us piled into a car and we ended up at a kabob restaurant which was doing a roaring trade. I was actually really sensible and barely touched my carbs, eating just the lamb and salad as I was a little fearful of falling asleep at the wheel on the way home. So after fun conversation had ended and plates had been cleared we piled out to the car again and I was very kindly driven to Stuart. I was soon on 66, got caught in roadworks, yet the endorphins of the evening buoyed me on the drive back and I arrived at Meadow House feeling surprisingly bright eyed and bushy tailed at 3:30am. I even considered staying up but common sense prevailed and I went to bed with two pussycats snuggling up pleased that I'd finally arrived home.

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