As we bring this story to our readers I cant’ help but feel a little bittersweet. Recently, my photographer friends embarked on an adventure to the abandoned Staten Island Castle and were really excited to capture a part of the history. Now that the building is demolished, this group was, possibly, the last to enter The “Castle” and capture the atmosphere that cannot be replicated. Step back in time as my friends take you on a journey:
“Architecture aims at Eternity” – a famous quote by Christopher Wren, one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. Unfortunately eternity is not something that was in the future for a Staten Island specimen that until recently has been standing tall for over 120 years. Known as the Staten Island Castle, the S.R. Smith Infirmary has played a big role in the rich history of our town. The design of the building provided corner-less rooms which, at the time of construction, was thought to be the best way to reduce the spread of disease and dust. The Infirmary remained operational until 1979. In 1965 it was decided that a move to a new location would be more beneficial than a much needed extension of the current location. That new location is now known as the Staten Island Hospital on Seaview Avenue.
Sometime in 2011 I heard that the Castle was under a real threat to be taken down. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about this situation, but being a photographer, my opinion is at its best, when it is expressed visually. On one cold winter morning along with a few of my friends I ventured out on a mission to preserve history. A red wall could be seen as we made our way through the brush. Once we made it to the foot of the structure it was easy to appreciate the eerie grandeur of the walls and towers that stood in front of us. We did not expect a lot, but once inside, a world of visual history opened up to us. Through the punctured walls and all of the debris on the floor it was hard to imagine what this place once was. Once on the second floor, we were happy to discover what later became our favorite subject – a grand, textured iron staircase with marble step coverings stood out in front of us as a forgotten rusty giant. We tried to capture it from every angle, and to show the details of its two tall pillars. The sun was beginning to make its way towards a higher angle and began pouring through the boarded up windows in the oval rooms. Streaks of light lit up the crumbling space. We caught ourselves whispering most the time as our subconscious mind realized that something was at peace here.
HDR (high dynamic range) photography is something that is trending right now. Abandoned subjects like our Castle really benefited from this type of visual art, because it makes the most of the light and color that is available in the frame. Our eyes see a lot of the dynamic range, but the HDR technique opens up a whole new perspective. Each one of us saw the Castle in his/her own unique way. The Castle is now gone, demolished. I am hoping that the structure that will be built in its place, will be able to persuade the Staten Island residents that the Castle was not destroyed in vain. I also hope that our images of this historic landmark will become a part of our community and serve as a reminder of something that aimed for eternity, but could not withstand time.
guest Contributing Author,
Galleries below represent a selection of images from each of the photographers.