abandoned

The Creepiest Place.

Recently many people have asked me if there are any places I’ve explored that I haven’t liked. Usually that question goes along with whether I’ve had any experiences with ghosts or supernatural activity. The answer is yes: this place.

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There haven’t been many “bad places” but this one, I hated it. It’s been gone for awhile now, and I’m pretty sure anyone else who was here with me didn’t like it much either. It was a pretty large rehab facility/rest home situated in a residential neighborhood, and even though I didn’t like it the very first time I explored it, I went back twice for Yellow Glove shoots, and it NEVER got better. Why didn’t I like it? Too may reasons to list, but here are a few: I don’t usually have the hair on my arms stand straight up, and it did here. Every. Time. My first visit I felt light-headed, and by the time I left, yep, I passed out. So many very personal belongings were left behind, and knowing people in this facility were either really ill or elderly, it made it creepy-sad. There were beeping noises. And unexplained pockets of working electricity.

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And I’d say as far as ghosts or “hauntings” go, I was a skeptic, but that changed soon after I visited this place. Maybe it’s handy that I learned how to smudge using white sage and abalone shell after I was positive something “attached” to me during my second visit, or that I now always announce my presence and intentions when exploring, even when [I think] I’m alone, or that I had to learn how to have conversations about ghosts, especially with my nanny at the time, Aubrey, who knows I am not kidding; ask her about “the rags” sometime, as well as my landlord (Real conversation: “Hey … don’t think I’m crazy, but did you HEAR that lady just knocking and yelling for help? No? Are you sure this house wasn’t built on a burial ground or something…?”). Most places have been ok. This one; not so much.

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Round Two.

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It was the creepiest, guys. There’s my answer.

Image x Image || "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes"

A giant part of my life is comprised of answering questions, and many come concerning my artwork. Questions range from what one might consider as normal to really, crazy-out-there. The truth is that I really like answering these questions and having a dialogue about my work as well as most art-related topics, and it's pretty common knowledge that I can be a relentless questioner myself.

Keeping that in mind and paralleling my goal of writing more frequently and about differing topics, I've decided to blog about images or work that I am asked about often, so "Image x Image" seems appropriate, kinda like an old school Behind the Music/VH1 type thing except with some of my single images.  My work is absolutely connected to stories, storytelling, and so much learning - so many lessons. So many areas of art have been valuable to me: my English major coursework and the intensive study of literature and writing that went along with it and the continual practice of it. My English teaching part of life. My music obsession. Film. Photography and all visual art. Especially throughout the last three years though, talking about it and analyzing it has helped to open what I already thought was an open mind, has taught me about people, has helped ground me when not much else can, and has helped connect me to people and experiences, both wonderful and horrible, and I am grateful to have it all in my life. It has, at times, literally become a life-saver.

In light of all that, one image I field questions and comments about often is from The Yellow Glove Series and is a part what I see as the pared down narrative body: "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." 

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" | The Yellow Glove Series| 2016 

This bad boy right here: I get all kinds of interesting feedback on it. But I will address that as I incorporate what I can tell you about the image itself.

First, a lot went into the thinking and creation of images from this body of work. It was a true collaborative effort between Sam, who is the female (but actually male, yes) model and myself. Sam is amazing as an artist AND actor, which I think is quite obvious. This was a chance for him to showcase his passion for both things, and I cannot say enough about how incredible his artistic ability is. Some of the ideas for the shoots were more spontaneous than others, but at times we did sit down and brainstorm what scenarios we wanted to depict. The shoot that resulted in this image and a few others is one that was planned down to the clothes and props, location, the "husband," and the vignettes combined with the narrative itself.

One thing I do before a shoot like this involving models is to scout out locations for safety, the likelihood of getting into trouble if permission isn't exactly secured (which I am obviously tremendously careful about, but nothing is 100%), etc. I usually have a place in mind and fall in love with the idea of it, but sometimes I do have enough common sense and good judgement to decide it won't work. Usually heartbreakingly for me though. Not so with this place. I found it about 3 months before the shoot, just by keeping my eyes open and looking, and went through it very carefully. Because it was a home that had been partially destroyed from a fire, I was worried about the safety of the structure. Really, besides the smoke damage and the entire missing SIDE of the house, it was pretty safe, as far as being structurally sound, at least on the floors. The place had the feeling I was needing for this shoot, which was imperative. It is never a happy thing to see how a family's home, and obviously here a large part of their life, was destroyed by fire. But the message from this part of the narrative was obviously a little dark and the setting needed to fit. 

This brings me to the first couple of comments I usually hear concerning this image.

First: "Lisa, for some reason I love this one but it makes me feel uncomfortable."

Well good. It's supposed to! And it's supposed to make you think. A lot, hopefully.

Also: "Well. This is intense." 

It is. And shouldn't it be?  Isn't a situation where a husband is blowing cigarette smoke in his wife's face supposed to be intense? Yes. And yeah, it should make your skin crawl a little. Sam and Riley, who played the husband, did a fantastic job getting into character.

But we also had FUN during this shoot. I remember it as one of the best that we had overall because of the planning we did, the people who helped (Aubrey, Maggie, and Nikki!) the donuts and coffee we brought along and ate afterward, Riley's Pall Malls - for the sake of authenticity, of course!, and the weather. It was a little warm for April. I also didn't forget to bring anything along, which was a plus. I do have so many outtakes from many of the Yellow Glove shoots, and some capture some great moments. They really document the entire process, and taking those random photos have made it fun to look back. Case in point, here are a couple:

And so I explored and created some images of things that seemed interesting, figured out the best way to park and unload; all of those things that no one usually thinks much about when seeing the final product. It's hard work, but it's fun work.

From the scouting:

As long as I showed these images of the scouting, another question I get a lot concerns locations. Stuff like, "Hey. That place is incredible looking. What is it? Where is it? Can you take me there?!" 

Sorry, can't tell ya, and no, I definitely can't take you. It might be fun, but it is actually very stressful to bring people to a place when you aren't sure about how they will react to it, or when safety is a concern. This place is gone now anyway. Long gone. It was in McHenry County, and it was half burned down. Actually upstairs, the entire front part was completely missing. So in other words, the light was amazing! Ha.

This shoot resulted in many options as far what I saw as useable pictures, but there are a few in particular that I have singled out and shown, and a two others are some I feel a strong connection and liking towards; maybe a couple of others strike a chord with me too. I shoot more than 1000 images on a shoot like this, and I am happy when I get a few that work for what I am looking for. It's hard to get through them and to choose, but usually if I get 3-4 I feel good a bout working with, I am happy. 

These are shots that I have used in shows, as a part of the narrative itself, or considered using and the vignettes scouted beforehand. I liked for the settings to be used as found for the Yellow Glove shoots, and although we brought props, I didn't alter the places themselves. Because the abandonment is an essential symbolic component of the series, I wanted the settings to be as they were found. 

Vignette for "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"

Vignette used for below images. The pink walls, the chair, and the 1947 had me from the start.

I understand the images from this part of the body may be a little dark. Once a person who I did a some work with, whom I have known for awhile - since high school age - asked me a question a little shyly but honestly. He was curious about where this stuff comes from, like, how are these images becoming things? From me? He just didn't see that within me as a kid when he knew me. And he didn't see me as a "dark person." 

To answer that, I don't think I am necessarily "dark" although I have been called a "pessimist" at times. That's not really it either. I like to say I am realistic. Things happen all the time. And I am  interested in reality. I'm also very interested in the ideas of universality and collective memory and collective consciousness - always, always have been. So the work that I enjoy making - I want it to be important work. Work can be specific, but I do love it when it has a universal aspect so that people, whether I know them or not, can relate in some way to the tone of the work, and especially in The Yellow Glove Series. There IS a serious, and I think, important message there. Some people might understand it as it relates to ME and why I made it better than others, but that doesn't even really matter, and that's what I want. I want it to be something that carries a universality within it so that people, in general, can relate to it, and that relation may be different than another person's way, but no matter what, the feelings associated with and emitted from the work can "get to you" and be recognizable, by many, if not all, who view it. I'm attracted to art like that. So I guess that's one of the main reasons why I try to create it. 

Other shots, largely unused from this shoot:

I also had lots of inspiration from the shoot to experiment with mixed media - mostly image transfer, painting, and stitching. This is something I enjoy doing - working with my hands. These are framed and in my studio as a set of four. 

"Break the Cycle" 

Not all "Image x Image" posts will be this length. But so much came from this image, and because it is the first post of the bunch, it seemed like it needed a little … more. Anyway, thanks for reading!

Spring Break 2018: Restarting the Insane Abandoned Place Checklist.

When you can't go to the beach, you go to Savanna, IL.  It is on the banks of the Mississippi River. Or you go to Harvey. There was standing water in a basement of an old power plant.  Or is that just me?

I'm pretty sure it isn't just me. I might just be the only person you know who does it though.

After a great week with the kids, I had a little bit of time to go exploring. A long time ago, I wrote about eventually making my way to Thrillist's Most 28 Insane Abandoned Places in the Midwest. Here's the link if you need a refresher. 

https://www.thrillist.com/lifestyle/chicago/the-28-most-insane-abandoned-places-in-the-midwest

I've been slowly checking these puppies off of my list. I have more to visit, but I am happy with my  recent efforts. Ha.

These places can be checked off: 1. City Methodist Church in Gary, IN; 2. Damen Silos in Chicago, IL; 7. Joliet Correctional Center in Joliet, IL; 17. Searsboro Consolidated School in Searsboro, IA; 27. Alexian Brothers Novitiate in Gresham, WI; and 28. Solvay Coke & Gas Company in Milwaukee, WI (now demolished). 

And after this last week, you can also add two other great spots: 5. Wyman-Gordon Power Plant in Dixmoor, IL and 13. Savanna Army Depot outside of Savanna, IL.

Exciting, I KNOW! 

Both spots were definitely worth the research, planning, and in the Depot's case, a somewhat extreme effort, but both also came with a little risk-taking, so I guess what I am saying is that if you decide to go to either of these locations, make sure you research and think ahead. 

So actually, I want to show a little of what I found at the Savanna Army Depot location, which I found to be surreal. Let me say that I have actually been a little … scared … to go to this site, mostly because of what it was used for and because of what I read about it from beginning my research of it over two years ago. I decided to go actually go for it and to try to experience it for a couple of reasons.

First:

It was Easter. I don't have the kids every year. I hate sitting around all day, so instead moping, I have decided these are perfect days to go to places I usually don't have time to hit up.  I go early and take a long-ish trip to a place where I hope (and was correct this time) that I will be the only person around. This method of operation has it's advantages and disadvantages. The obvious advantage is that on holidays, most people are eating big meals with their families and friends, so it's a good time to explore a place that might usually be monitored carefully. The overriding negative is that if anything goes wrong and you're alone, you could be toast, especially without wireless service, WHICH I DID NOT HAVE FOR HOURS, and I have had service just about everywhere the last year or so. My provider is AT&T. Maybe it's different for other carriers. But this is doubtful. I was literally in the middle of nowhere. The good news is that I lived. So count that as a win for me.

Second:

I have a reason to go to some of these places now. I recently signed with a publishing company known for its photograph/history heavy titles. They are publishing a new series of books, "Abandoned America." I picked up Illinois and one other state. So, I have to get my a$$ going. The first draft is due July 31st for Illinois, and I know nobody thinks I have enough to do, so I added this little project onto my "to do" list. It's actually been a goal of mine to write a book - like my entire life - so this unsolicited opportunity came out of nowhere and actually fits with my love for exploring, history, writing, and photography. It also motivates me to get out and do something I love, and it's something I haven't made enough time for recently. It's also a valid reason to be exploring when explaining WHY I am at a location if questioned. It's exciting for me. And I want to thank my friends Dave, Chehalis, and Michael for helping me make some decisions regarding it. I'm so grateful. No idea how it will turn out, but I knew I needed to get to at least four more significant sites in Illinois in order for me to feel good about content, and this is one of them. 

A Tiny Bit of History and Context:

This place is so interesting to me. I often don't understand how there are some places out there that still exist, especially massive places with hundreds of buildings that are left to disintegrate. This is one of them.  I guess I do understand that cleaning this site up isn't necessarily a priority for the DNR, seeing as I read there is currently ONE full time employee overseeing the entire area. It makes sense because it is obvious that this is a place where not much money is flowing in effortlessly, and The Savanna Business Park is a little different than any other business park I have ever seen - no offense to anyone there. It's just the way it is. That's kind of unfortunate because the actual land sits overlooking the Mississippi River, and the land contains the largest natural dune system in the state of Illinois. It is 7.5 miles long and sits 70 feet above the river. The land is also known as the Lost Mound Unit of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. So far only around 3000 acres has been transferred, as the remaining acreage needs to be freed from environmental contamination and will be turned over when deemed safe. This could take forever though, because it is a long-term clean up plan, and the plan will supposedly be updated every 5-10 years through information gained by monitoring habitat, wildlife, and recreational use (www.fws.gov).

The Lost Mound is pretty intriguing too. It is this geographic oddity and is part of local folklore concerning a post-glacial hill set as the backdrop for the sand prairie found around it. Funny enough, "the mound did not appear on early maps of the region, however the lost 'mound' has since been found as is {now} featured on recent topographical maps" (www.fws.gov). This mound is super easy to find. It sticks up high above the rest of the land, although the area in general is hilly, and it is kind of oddly shaped and placed, but the land is aptly named, for sure.

Really quickly, the Savanna Army Depot had about 3 different titles from the time it opened in 1918 until the time it completely closed in 2000. It also had many different uses. This depot is often called the "Area 51" of the Army because of it's secret operations and missions, and because of it not being well known. It was also easy to confuse with other bases having "Savanna" or "Savannah" in their names. Savanna, OK; Savannah, SC; Savannah, GA … Savanna, IL? You get the picture. In basic terms, this place was used mainly as an ordnance, or a branch of the Armed Forces that deals with the supply and storage of weapons, ammunition, and other items related to that. This specific place was used to test and store different types of highly explosive and powerful ammunition such as 75 and 155mm howitzers, or short cannons that shoot on high trajectories in order to reach targets behind cover or within trenches. It was also used to produce, test, and ship out explosives during and after WWII. Later, it was also used as a U.S. Army Defense Ammunition Center and School that provided technical, logistical, consulting, engineering, training, and other types of specialized services to the U.S. Department of Defense. HAD NO IDEA, right? There are lots of interesting little facts about this little known of place, but one that sticks out to me is that this Depot contained a plant that loaded bombs and explosives during WWII, including the that were used in General James Doolittle's raid on Tokyo in 1942. Also, this area contains over 400 steel-enforced, earth-covered igloos with up to 2000 square feet of storage underneath  that were used to store such things as highly explosive ammunition, "mustard" gas, Ammonium Nitrate (actually over 260,000 tons of it for war reserves), and actually later and still today, data and computers. Crazy right? These are highly visible, all over the place, and are covered in grass so that they were undetectable by air. 

Needless to say, this land is highly contaminated. Scary too, is that there are said to be unexploded devices in some areas. That's what scared me most. I wore a respirator because I knew of the contamination, yes. I have heard many of the unexploded devices are taken care of, but you know, after being there, I'm not so sure. There are still signs explaining what to do when you happen to come upon one. Backwater areas are also still closed to the public due to "unexploded ordnance" being present, so I stayed far away from that space. I know 1948 was a long time ago, but there was actually and explosion that left a 150 foot wide by 50 foot deep hole you can still find. The 4 ton door from that steel-enforced igloo was never found. That says a lot.

It really is a beautiful location on the edge of the River, and it only took me 2 hours and 10 minutes to get there. Easy drive.

My start at the overlook at the end of the "public permitted" part of the Lost Mound Unit path. Cold but beautiful.

I've seen many shots of this Depot from the outside, and maybe a few shots from the inside of a barrack or a mess hall, but I have never seen what I got into Sunday. I'm not saying to do it yourself. I was actually relieved to get home, as I felt like I was constantly pumping adrenaline. It started as a pretty boring expedition actually, since I couldn't figure out where to go to find what I was looking for, and then it got frustrating because I wasn't seeing what I wanted to photograph. But, after I kept searching just "one more time" or for "one more thing," I finally figured some things out, and without getting into the details of how I accessed these things, I can only say wow. I am glad I went, but I am just as happy to have finished exploring it. I wanted to do more, and I could have done more because I basically had access to all that I wanted in the end, but I felt like I needed to get out of there. One thing I have learned through all of this abandoned hunting is to not push my luck. A lot of it is based on instinct, and my instincts were telling me to get out and to go home. So although there is a lot more to see, and I have a feeling it is a lot more of the same of what I will show, there is still a little curiosity there. It is such a huge area; it's hard not to be curious about what else there is out there. But I am done. I saw enough, and it was worth it.

If you look at the link to this map below, I was all over the place, but many of the most interesting shots came from within the CL and CF Loop Roads. The entire area  is over 14 miles long and over 2.5 miles wide, so I'm sure you can imagine how overwhelming the size is. The question for me was where to start.

https://www.bing.com/maps?osid=da2d1d2d-8124-46c5-9155-351f6031ba0c&cp=42.19038~-90.280748&lvl=16&style=h&v=2&sV=2&form=S00027

There is so much more history I have learned about this place, and it is really fascinating, but I'll save that for another time. 

Here's the easier-to-get-to stuff:

Barracks. At one time, in 1942, over 7000 employees worked here. Many stayed here as well. Eventually the numbers of people employed and/or stationed here plummeted, and rather quickly.

Barracks. At one time, in 1942, over 7000 employees worked here. Many stayed here as well. Eventually the numbers of people employed and/or stationed here plummeted, and rather quickly.

Storage facility by tracks.

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One of many dilapidated guardhouse easily found.

One of many dilapidated guardhouse easily found.

The Headquarter Building, which is near the barracks.

The Headquarter Building, which is near the barracks.

A guard station near the entry into the Depot.

A guard station near the entry into the Depot.

A larger "recreational building." These are scattered all over the place.

A larger "recreational building." These are scattered all over the place.

Another easily seen building from the publicly -accessible roadway.

Another easily seen building from the publicly -accessible roadway.

This building is located within a barbed-wire fence, but it is easy to see.

This building is located within a barbed-wire fence, but it is easy to see.

There are SO MANY of the long, rusted out buildings. They are unheated and not air-conditioned.

There are SO MANY of the long, rusted out buildings. They are unheated and not air-conditioned.

A little more challenging and interesting ...

So far, it was ok. Interesting, but if I didn't know why it was interesting, a pretty far drive for some crumbling buildings. Until I searched the grounds for about an hour. 

And then it got much better - on the outside and inside of the buildings.

This was an amazing place, but like I said, everything in me was telling me to leave. So I left the way I came. It was enough for me. I actually hope that someday this place is cleaned up properly. It is a beautiful area of Illinois, largely undisturbed, full of wildlife, and on a gorgeous riverbank. Maybe in the not-so-far future clean up will become more of a priority for the remaining 5000+ acres of land that can be transferred over once safe for public use.

Places I have been lately. Location 1: happy we aren't dog meat. Literally.

This must be the place. Hmmm. Here's a song for that - I always have a song for that, but this one is especially fitting and one of my top five favorites: 

I guess that this must be the place?

I guess that this must be the place?

Most people know I love scouting out places - whether for focus and calming myself after or before a stressful week, for possible shoots, even unfortunately for an adrenaline rush when I'm feeling a little um … bored … so I figured I'd share some of the most interesting places I have been lately since a lot of you wonder about them, and yeah, I have been pretty quietly active these last few months exploring. Haven't really been active on the blog though. It's hard while teaching and grading. One thing you have to know is that I rarely go alone. Maybe once in awhile, because I have learned a lot in the last two years, and one thing I have learned is to go with someone you are 100 percent comfortable with and whom you trust in any situation. I also go early, early in the morning. The light is beautiful if you catch it just right, and I like morning light better than evening light. Plus I wake up early and I'm shot by about 3pm. I'm like 85 years old. Maybe 90. So this is the most recent place I explored, and it was early in the morning, this past Sunday, at a McHenry County location which was obviously heavily wooded. 

First, walking up to the property was awesome. There was just so much STUFF outside of the house, and I wanted to go inside, but decided to look outside first because the light was ridiculous AND there were so many little "areas" I'll call them, to explore. I don't think the pictures I ended up with even do this place justice.

Boats. Everywhere. Walk up the gravel driveway: boat. Go a little bit more: 2 more boats. 

Boats. Everywhere. Walk up the gravel driveway: boat. Go a little bit more: 2 more boats. 

Then you walk in to the yard and find this: a massive hodge-podge of a house. Someone just kept building on. Look in the windows and you see an indoor pool, tons of old stuff, televisions, and walk throughs going to the other side of the property which is backed up to a creek. It's actually a beautiful setting.  The roof was halfway caved in though, and there were about five make-shift decks on different levels of the three level house. 

Then you walk in to the yard and find this: a massive hodge-podge of a house. Someone just kept building on. Look in the windows and you see an indoor pool, tons of old stuff, televisions, and walk throughs going to the other side of the property which is backed up to a creek. It's actually a beautiful setting.  The roof was halfway caved in though, and there were about five make-shift decks on different levels of the three level house. 

Two years ago, maybe even one year ago, I would have run straight into that sucker because of how cool it looked; however, I'd like to argue that I have become smarter after doing this many times and running into different issues or thinking about what could happen. I'm glad we stayed outside. But anyway, there was so much to look at. Whoever lived here made different little areas on this huge property. 

Coming onto the land was even interesting. I don't know how old the raised American Flag was, but it was torn, weather-beaten, and faded. The light was perfect though.

A partial flag …?

A partial flag …?

Then it was into the gate. Everything was overgrown, and there was so much scattered around. It's hard to say when this place went abandoned, but it had to be awhile ago.  Lawn chairs, Christmas lights, a gazebo, sheds, a bomb shelter, garden tools, an exercise bike - you name it, we saw it.

Lights in the foreground, Santa in the background. Perfect. 

Lights in the foreground, Santa in the background. Perfect. 

Beautiful land, broken fence, bomb shelter.

Beautiful land, broken fence, bomb shelter.

I mean, you never know ...

I mean, you never know ...

Rusty swingsets, bird feeders, sheds...

Rusty swingsets, bird feeders, sheds...

And my favorite area, the gazebo with trees growing through it. No, Nancy did not sing any songs from The Sound of Music or twirl around while she did that because it was totally like the one where Liesl & Rolf danced and fell in love…she didn't! Hah! And I didn't sing either.

And my favorite area, the gazebo with trees growing through it. No, Nancy did not sing any songs from The Sound of Music or twirl around while she did that because it was totally like the one where Liesl & Rolf danced and fell in love…she didn't! Hah! And I didn't sing either.

Unfortunately, after this point, I was ready to go around to the other side of the house to check out even more cool stuff and then possibly go in, but not alone. Many of you know I talk to myself, especially when I am nervous or trying to figure something out, and I actually, at this gazebo, said out loud, "Ugh. Why am I scared to go in there?" But I kept walking, and as I did, I heard the absolute worst dog snarling, growling noise I have ever heard. There was a dog tied up inside of the house, on the end, with a not so strong rope and it was pulling to get to me and foaming at the mouth. Needless to say, my stomach dropped and I was worried about where Nance was. So I backed up as slow as possible and then TOOK OFF, panicked and found her. Then we got the hell out of there. Turns out my gut was right. I know that when you go onto the property, it is a wreck and the house has a caved in roof, and it looks totally abandoned. Evidently either someone is squatting there and has a guard dog - because it actually is the perfect place for that, being so far removed from everywhere - or someone puts a dog in there overnight to guard the place. I'm leaning toward it being a person's "home." And yes, we were here and it wasn't our property, but I'm still glad we didn't get mauled because that would be a painful way to go. 

The reason why I am also saying this is because I got this address from kids who graduated. DO NOT GO THERE. AND ESPECIALLY DO NOT GO THERE AT NIGHT LIKE YOU DID! BECAUSE THERE IS A MEAN AND STRONG DOG THERE! I know you guys went at night and didn't go in, and thank God for that. I'm glad I found it and not you. But thanks for the sweet address because I liked the outside probably more than I would have liked the inside. But go with your gut. Turns out mine is right sometimes, and that I have learned to listen to it. It has taken me awhile though, because I get overly excited about things. That was a first for me, and I never want to hear a sound like that again or to worry about a person I care about possibly being in danger. We both felt lucky and blessed. Just be alert!

With that being said, I will for sure show you the next exploration! 

Abandoned Factory Tour: Acme Coke Plant, Chicago. 2.26.17

Another place I have wanted to explore for a long time crossed off the list.

Panoramic view of the ovens and coal tower with Matthew, Nate, Aubrey, and Peggy. This gives an idea of the massive size of those ovens.

At the end of last month some of my daring photographer friends and I finally made it to the South Deering neighborhood of Chicago to explore what used to be the enormous Acme Coke and Steel Plant.  Thanks Matthew, Peggy, Nate, and Aubrey for a great day.

Coking, in case you are wondering, is the baking of coal in huge ovens and turning it into a cleaner and more efficient fuel used in old huge blast furnaces. Many of these furnaces were lined up along Lake Michigan but are now demolished; according to information I found, only one is still in operation at U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana. This area of the city was known for its steel production for most of the 20th century, and this particular plant opened in 1905. According to substreet.org, by 1909, the Acme Coke Plant spanned over 100 acres and had over 100,000 square feet of factory space.  In 2001 the factory closed for good, although it was saved for a short while in 2004 by the Calumet Heritage Partnership and provided them with enough time for them to collect historical artifacts, documents, and etc. for a museum. It was later mostly demolished, and what remains is what we got to see.

I'm sure the grounds are filled with lead, asbestos, mold,  coal (all over the place), and all other kinds of bad stuff, but seeing the grounds, going into some buildings, climbing part of the coal tower (it was way too windy to climb to the top for Nate, Matt, and me - a rare decision based on what we thought would be safe - see I'm not that crazy), seeing the ovens, finding old documents from as far back as the 1950's, and walking the grounds was interesting and worth the time and effort it took to get there. 

Proof that I was the chicken thanks to Aubrey. Yep, that's me cowering in the corner on the far right, not even standing.

First, we had to walk through some of the old buildings. It's crazy what is left behind. So many boots, hard hats, pairs of goggles, gloves and other items workers had used.

As we walked towards the coal tower and the coke ovens, which were what I really wanted to see, we saw what a wasteland the property had become.  We saw trash, of course, but also clothes, boots, a burned up truck, and half-standing buildings.

From previously seen pictures, I pictured the ovens and tower as taking up some space but not really tall and huge, like they were. The first set of ovens reminded me of tall ancient Roman ruins, except instead of white they were burned into colorful brick. The second set of ovens looked were shorter, but just as colorful. And even though it was a bright, sunny day, it was very cold and windy, so windy that it took me a good ten minutes to stand up on a platform  to look out over the grounds after climbing partially up the coal tower. Getting up there was hard enough - stepping on beams and sliding up through narrow slats until making it to the platform, but the wind was almost too much. I was afraid  to put my camera bag down. We found the yellow outer stairway leading to the very top of the tower, but Matthew, Nate, and I unfortunately and rarely decided it was too dangerous to climb to the top. See. I'm not as crazy as you think. Getting to the platform was good enough. 

Interesting, worth it, another good place to explore and photograph, and another part of history that could soon be forgotten. Thanks for a good day you guys, and thanks for the logistics, Matthew! 

 

Aubrey, Peggy, Nate, and Matthew around some of the grounds.

For more information on this factory, there are a bunch of places to check out, but here are a couple of good ones.

http://substreet.org/acme-coke/
http://www.idaillinois.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/pshs02

Yellow Glove Shoot #23 : Safari Bar and Kitchen

Yeah, holy crap. 23 Yellow Glove shoots. I didn't even realize it has been that many until I literally counted them a minute ago. Only 3 haven't been seen.  1 probably never will be. It didn't turn out like we thought it would. Let's just say a happy Gigi just doesn't work.

And so what if it's really 0 degrees with a -17 degree windchill and this shoot is approximately an hour north? Doesn't even matter when you really love a place and want to get one in. 

This home, which we chose mostly due to the amazing looking space and fully stocked safari-themed bar, is huge and abandoned, from what I can guess since sometime in the 1980's, is in Wisconsin, and it looks like the occupants got up and left as fast as they could … mob?? That would be the perfect story in my head. We all agree that someone need to buy this home and flip it. It could be unbelievable. Someone call Tarek and Christine. I know they're getting divorced, but supposedly they are going to keep flipping or flopping. Everything you see in the images was already in place, and there was so much more we couldn't include. 

Flip or Flop? Not their marriage silly  the house!

It was freezing, and we considered not going, but it was the only day that worked. One thing that I love about this shoot is that both models are extremely expressive, Gigi facially and her husband with body language. I think it's obvious that this guy didn't work out for her either.  She has no luck at all with men. She's like that Social Distortion Song : "Bad Luck." She's got bad, bad luck.

This is husband #6. We've had Caleb, who expects too much; Brian, who she ran from while at the altar; Riley, who was a tad bit abusive; Kai, who wanted her to cook and clean while he sat around; Alex, who was a little too perfect but made her sad; and now Ethan, who seems nice but drinks a little too much. I keep telling her she has to stop basing her choices on looks. 

Here's some of what we got during the last shoot:

I know. That bar, right?! I love the spiderweb stretching off of the bottle. And those cabinets in the kitchen! We might just have to reuse this location if it's still around in the future. Plus, looking at the models, who would even know it was colder than in the North Pole that day?  

Abandoned House & Factory Tours

For some of us, finding an abandoned house or factory is crazy exciting and only happens every once in a long while. This weekend was a rare one for me - I had two new addresses to go to from an Instagram swap, but while on those trips, I found an accidental house that was great and with three other friends, accidentally found a huge factory. So I have to post some pictures. One house was basically in shambles but still good, one house was very old and cool with historical items laying around, and one house was just plain weird. I would almost consider it a mansion. SO MANY things were left behind, and not from today; I'm thinking 80's based on the cassette tapes I found (lots of hair bands, Maria Lyons). And the factory: it was huge, filled with graffiti, and had a lot of cool and safe :) places to climb.  So for me, yeah, basically what started as a boring weekend turned out to be a really good one.

Here are are some images I captured; I'll go in the order visited. This first place was the one I discovered by accident; it was very old and had many great things just laying around. Many windows also contained some kind of beautiful stained glass.

The second house I went to was less than a mile away and was also very, very old. It was half destroyed and not easy to maneuver through, but what was left inside was great: just old rooms and hideous wallpaper and LOTS of old-fashioned lights. It also had about six outbuildings and many contained rusty bikes?!

The final house I visited that day was about 20 minutes farther north, and I was really surprised because it was a HUGE house, and it seemed like people just got up and left. This house was cool but creepy; my favorite room was a safari themed bar and game room, completely stocked and wallpapered with jungle animals like zebras and tigers and elephants. I have never seen anything like it. There was also a large painting of a girl propped up against a wall, and the creepy thing was that the lights on either side of it turned on as you will see in the picture. It made absolutely no sense, so that's about when I left.

After a three hour break, I met up with three more photographer friends for what I thought was going to be a relaxing shoot of whatever we found to shoot outside; however, we ran into a completely unexpected, enormous, graffiti-filled factory. It was so large that there was no way to get through it all in two hours. There was plenty of machinery left, and there were many climbing opportunities for some different perspectives. So overall, it was a great weekend for shooting, and this week should bring some other fun opportunities as well! 

One last thing. If you are around the Woodstock Square anytime this month, go and check out Ethereal Confection's art display because it's outstanding. Kurt Kreissl, my good friend, is an extremely talented artist. He works mainly with oil and acrylics, but also with graphite. He creates many abstracts and portraits. Traditionally, Kurt's work is very large in size, and there are a few large pieces on display, but many are smaller than usual, and they turned out to be beautiful. There are 17 total pieces hanging, and I will go ahead and post some pictures of his work hanging there, but you should go see it in person because pictures of his work does not do it justice; there are many layers that you can see up close and his attention to detail is amazing. Plus, as most of you know, Ethereal is an amazing place to visit anyway! 

The New and Improved Website?, Abandoned Craziness, and New Projects

So, this is my new webpage. I think I like it; however, I'm curious to hear some feedback from you guys though; what do you think? Is it easy to navigate? Is it visually appealing? What can be added or improved? Seriously. Let me know. You can leave comments on this blog page, which is different from what site I used before.

Hope everybody had a great Christmas, holiday, or just a good break. I love having some extra time, and I don't go back to teaching until January 9th, so I've been working hard on a few specific things, one being my photography and art, of course. 

The first abandoned excursion that I decided take was yesterday. It's been awhile, but I had two awesome new addresses, and as many of you know, I am always scouting for new locations for shoots. As I found my first location, which looked AWESOME, by the way I noticed I'd have to drive a little ways and turn around in order to park.  I was in the middle of nowhere. As I did that, I accidentally came upon ANOTHER great abandoned house with about 6 outbuildings. I LOVE IT WHEN THAT HAPPENS. So, I stopped there first and was really pleased with what I found: lots of old coupons and pictures, so many pretty stained glass windows, and many open windows where the wind was blowing in along with gorgeous light. 

Huge barn. I have to go back. Didn't even go near it.

Huge barn. I have to go back. Didn't even go near it.

The late afternoon golden light was perfect, especially against these torn and gauzy curtains.

The late afternoon golden light was perfect, especially against these torn and gauzy curtains.

The upstairs was actually so much larger than I thought it would be.

The upstairs was actually so much larger than I thought it would be.

A view through the door of a large outhouse near the main house. This outhouse actually had a tub in it. Never seen that before. I think it is really old.

A view through the door of a large outhouse near the main house. This outhouse actually had a tub in it. Never seen that before. I think it is really old.

Now  THIS  was exciting. Do you know how long Sam and I have been looking for a real claw foot bathtub in an abandoned place that we could use for a shoot? FOREVER. This has been on our list of ideas for a long time, AND it is not really too dirty at all! 

Now THIS was exciting. Do you know how long Sam and I have been looking for a real claw foot bathtub in an abandoned place that we could use for a shoot? FOREVER. This has been on our list of ideas for a long time, AND it is not really too dirty at all! 

After a short time, I left because I wanted to go to the other two locations I had. This is where the worst part of the adventure starts. When I drove back to the next location, which was supposed to be my FIRST location, I had to figure out where to park, so I pulled off onto the side of the road. It looked fine. Yeah right. Half of my car was in grass and the other half was in about 2 feet of snow. Thanks to my huge scraper, I moved enough snow around to move my tires again, and three men who happened to be Good Samaritans in the middle of nowhere stopped and pushed me out. (THANKS!) It took over an hour, and I lost daylight. So, yes, I am going back to the other two locations this weekend, asap. The upside is that I now know where NOT to park.

Otherwise, I have been doing a lot of organizing around the house and experimenting with my art. Most people who know me understand that I love photography, but that I also like to use it to form multimedia pieces. I have so many ideas floating around in my head, so it's nice to have some time. I have about four new series ideas, and I have been continually experimenting with image transfers on many different substrates and with both oil and acrylic paint, oil pastels, graphite - you name it, I probably have tried something with it. I've only completed one major set of pieces, but that's because I started working on them in July … So here is some of the stuff I've been doing besides shooting daily. It's all unfinished, and I won't be explaining the ideas behind the work; however, here's some of the work. Some is not what I want exactly, but I'm stubborn enough to keep trying. 

This is the only set of pieces finished, and they are images from The Yellow Glove Series, all based off of one image commonly shown, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." These are all image transfers onto canvas paper and are embellished with some acrylic paint and thread sewn around certain parts of the image. Just an idea I had.

04.JPG
BTC 1.jpg

Here's what else I've been working on:

 

 

 

This was a photograph of the rain and snow out of the side window in a taxi I took in Chicago which has now transformed into an oil abstract from an image transfer onto wood panel.

This was a photograph of the rain and snow out of the side window in a taxi I took in Chicago which has now transformed into an oil abstract from an image transfer onto wood panel.

Mixed media piece: an image transfer from an abandoned school painted with oil and with wooden pieces added for texture onto wood panel.

Mixed media piece: an image transfer from an abandoned school painted with oil and with wooden pieces added for texture onto wood panel.

This started as a photograph of an abandoned living room from the outside looking in. It went from image transfer to oil paint and oil pastel on canvas.

This started as a photograph of an abandoned living room from the outside looking in. It went from image transfer to oil paint and oil pastel on canvas.

Hugely unfinished transfer onto wood panel for an upcoming series - if it works.

Hugely unfinished transfer onto wood panel for an upcoming series - if it works.

Another transfer and oil onto wood panel, unsanded - it will be today - and hopefully will work out as a part of the series I have stuck in my brain.

Another transfer and oil onto wood panel, unsanded - it will be today - and hopefully will work out as a part of the series I have stuck in my brain.

That's all I got; yeah it's long, but I had to try this new blog out. I'm thinking I like it.