Spending the Night in a Ghost Town

I grew up in a small town in Connecticut, so "normal" for me means that people live in houses with foundations, the grocery store is only about 10 minuets away, you can see your neighbor's house, you can drink the water from the tap... but thats not the case everywhere. And I don't mean to sound naive, I have seen how people live in the west bank of Cairo and I've seen families working on farms along the Nile River. I have walked the streets of several Chinese cities as well as had supper with a family that worked on a farm in the countryside of southern China. Yet I'm still always amazed by the country I call home. I never imagined it could be so incredibly different depending on where you look, and how you look at it.

One of the most interesting places I've been is a ghost town called Picher, Oklahoma. 

In the early 1900's this town was a thriving mining town for lead and zinc, with the population peaking at nearly 15,000 in the 20's. Picher was the leading producer in lead in zinc in the tri state area, about half of the lead and zinc used in World War I came from this district. All this prosperity would come to an end in 1967 when production at the mine, including the water pumps, stopped. In the 80's the combination of the risks of water contamination, cave-ins, and other hazards, as well as a study that found more than a third of the children of Picher had severe lead poisoning, forced the government to declare Picher as part of the Tar Creek Superfund Site. This called for a forced evacuation and buy outs by the EPA. This included Picher, and the satellite towns that had similar conditions. In 2006 an EF4 tonando ripped through the nearly deserted towns to accelerate the decline, and finally in 2009 the state of Oklahoma disincorporated Picher as a town. Now the "official" population is 0, but there are reports of a handful of people still living inside this superfund site.

waking up to the frost. An enormous pile of mining waste can be seen to the left. 

waking up to the frost. An enormous pile of mining waste can be seen to the left. 

Driving through Picher was unreal. There are enormous piles of mining waste on old neighborhood streets. The google earth view of this area is surreal to say the least. Unfortunately we arrived in town right as the sun was setting so we did not get a chance to see many of the remaining buildings we were hoping to, so we decided find a quiet space to park the camper-van and spend the night so we could shoot early in the morning. 

We drove through the grid pattern neighborhood streets until we were left with a quiet corner. The paved roads were narrow and cracked, and the plots of land where houses once stood were now patches of brittle and dry brush. We were sure we weren't supposed to be here so we hid ourselves away, locked the doors, and fell asleep to the sounds of coyotes howling and owls singing in the dark.

The next morning we woke up to a perfectly sparkly layer of frost everywhere and clouds of low hanging fog that danced around the empty streets. The sun was just rising and it was freezing. We took photos on the decaying pavement roads until the frost started to melt. We continued to drive around until we accidentally stumbled onto an area of mining waste. It started off by just looking like a place people went to dump garbage, but then we drove further until we realized we were in the middle of a huge mountain of waste. We spent a few moments exploring and taking photos. The waste looked like pale, grey-ish dirt with fine bits of rocks. We didn't know if it was contaminated or not... so we just assumed it was. Within this mound there were a few structures made from rusted metal and concrete. After exploring this area we drove back onto the silent streets and found a few more structures, like a dilapidated church as well as some large mining equipment. There were soccer fields still adored with goalie nets (the actual nets were long gone) and the main street still had some active municipal buildings and equipment; main street was even decorated for the upcoming holiday. 

We realized it was around noon so we decided to hit the road and continue our journey west. Like most places I have been, I wish I was able to spend more time exploring. 

More to come,

Kayla

Lost

Creating photos that tell a story has always been a goal of mine. Sometimes creating images like that can be really hard for me, and then sometimes things just happen naturally and spontaneously. 

Jesse and I have been exploring so much recently. One of my new favorite places happens to also be the most amazing sight I have yet to see. Hidden in plain view is a giant building that houses a grandiose theater as well as a dance hall and several ornate sets of stairs. 

The idea that came to mind was a lost ballerina in a dismal world; here are the photos that followed... 

more to come,

Kayla

Lately (Pt3)...

The North East is home to several abandoned institutions. They have always been my favorite places to explore. Whereas they don't inspire me to take self portraits usually, they evoke thoughts about the human condition and institutionalism. I need to learn more about the effects of institutionalism on patients as well as staff, but many ideas have come to me just looking at the layout of many of the buildings I have explored. 

To me, the sinks left in the abandoned nurses dorms have taken on a new life... each sink is made out of the same material, installed around the same time, and were intended to be the same, yet somehow over time each sink, as well as the wall surrounding it, has changed to take on their own unique character. I think in a lot of government funded programs (specifically health and public school) humans are treated as "one brand"... we are intended to be the same yet our environments and our own integrity makes us unique despite the "system" trying to keep us the same. The sinks have captivated me in this regard. 

Obviously the next few sets of photos were taken at very different places. It is also interesting to see how different towns or owners take care of "abandoned" property. 

The next abandoned facility I explored was a little different than the previous two, this one was a tuberculosis hospital rather than a mental facility. 

Finally, the most recent facility I had the pleasure of exploring was a centuries old mental facility. The day we chose to explore was a bitter rainy day, but I plan on returning very soon. 

To view more of the photos I take while exploring visit my Quiet Space Gallery

More to come,

Kayla

Lately (Pt. 2)...

Exploring has always been at the heart of my love for photography; wether it be exploring my emotions and sexuality or abandoned buildings. 

Jesse and I had set out weeks before these photos were taken to explore a centuries old abandoned resort in the Poconos. After sneaking successfully onto the property we crawled into the building, within 5 minuets we ran into the caretaker who was showing a potential investor around the property. He kindly told us to fuck off with his hand on his holster.

A few weeks later we learned that the buildings were set for demolition that month, so we decided to try our luck again. To our disappointment we found out most of the buildings were almost completely cleared out. 

As disappointed as we were I still managed to take some self portraits while we had the chance to roam around this beautifully sad place.

More to come, 

Kayla

Lately...

What used to be an old Christian summer camp turned into a new set for some of my photographs. A lot of emotions came out of me during this shoot: stress and frustration being the most prominent. 

The stress and frustration I had been feeling were due to many things. You might notice a bandage on my index finger... I had nearly cut it off before these photos were taken. Thankfully it healed up fine, but none the less I was frustrated with myself for making such a stupid mistake. 

Adding to the mix of emotions was the start of a new full time job and the end of summer. 

More to come,

Kayla 

Back to School

It is late august, everyone is going back to school.

I gaze out the window as I cruise down the highway, but I am not going back to school this time. Instead I am driving to an old school tucked away in the suburbs of an old mining town in Pennsylvania.

Originally set to be opened in 1918, this 3-story stone school served as a makeshift annex for the local hospital during an outbreak of the flu in 1919. The school then served as a high school until it was replaced with a newer facility in 1986. This school sat abandoned for years just waiting to be demolished until the current owner purchased the building. This dedicated and enthusiastic owner has worked tirelessly to restore the front of the building along with the aid of the community in hopes of one day turning this old school into a community center for all. 

We entered through the front doors of the building and were greeted with the familiar, cool and musty smells of ancient basement air. We were shown around the building, including the gym with weathered floors, the auditorium with light filtering through green windows, and several classrooms with chalkboards ready for classes that will not be in session. 

The highlight of the day was shooting in the old auditorium. The light pouring through the green tinted windows inspired some moody self portraits. 

I continued to work on my "Daydream" series here as well.. 

The old gymnasium also had amazing light, and the combination of the weathered basketball court and ball were the prefect setting.

The track above the gym offered some amazingly soft light filtering through dusty frosted glass while the crumbling plaster and exposed brick offered a painterly background. 

Lastly, an old classroom was the final setting for my self-portraits. Books, composition notebooks, and an old No. 2 pencil were left scattered on a desk in front of a chalkboard still adorned with long-gone class assignments. 

Please note that this building is privately owned and parts of it are still occupied by the owners business. I was granted permission to shoot here, so please respect the rights of the owner so he will allow other artists to shoot in this gorgeous building in the future. 

Jesse taking a photo from centre stage 

Jesse taking a photo from centre stage 

More to come,

-Kayla 

Rant: Instagram censorship, body issues

The day before Field Day in the first grade teachers were reminding us about staying hydrated in the heat and the dress code. I never even thought about the dress code on the day-to-day basis... I was 6 and my mom picked out what I would wear school still. But for Field Day I had picked out a yellow spaghetti strap (my class was the yellow team) but my teacher told us that spaghetti straps were not allowed at school because they are inappropriate and they would distract my other classmates.... I was so confused about this because that day was supposed to be really hot and full sun so in my brain I figured a tank top would be the more practical choice.

Fast forward to my angsty years in high school. I had a better understanding of the school dress code and it pissed me off. "But they don't even sell shorts that short" "But that measurement is arbitrary and I have long arms" "if what I was wearing was really inappropriate my mother wouldn't let me out of the house in it" Those arguments were met with the one comment any girl in high school was dreading to hear: "Well, its distracting to your male classmates" (says the 53 year old faculty member that knows nothing of my character but cared enough to follow me down the hall to tell me that my shorts were too short in front of several other students... embarrassing, right?) I don't think I need to go on about how embarrassing that is to a young, impressionable woman who is still trying to come to terms with her body. School dress codes degrade young woman at the most vulnerable point in their lives and teach them that our bodies are dangerous and our worth is based off of an outdated standard of modesty, not to mention that the education of our male classmates is more valuable than our own. 

Thankfully, you don't stay in high school forever, and once you're in the real world the "dress code" is either "professional" or whateverthefuckyouwant. 

If you asked me 2 years ago if I would be posing nude for photos I would have blushed and said "no way dude" but look at me now... Posing nude has made more more comfortable with myself, given me a new outlet of expression and has made me look at other body shapes differently; It made me really appreciate the differences between human beings. But with everything else in this world it came with drawbacks. The biggest and most annoying at this time being censorship. While I understand the sentiment behind it I think it can be very harmful and something needs to change. Ive had several posts removed from Instagram because of a visible (or non visible) nipple or other body parts. This is irritating because of the obvious inconvenience of re censoring and reuploading, but the fact that my body is deemed "unsafe for the community" perpetuates something I've been dealing with my whole life. 

My body is not unsafe. Nipples are just body parts, like my fingers or my knees. But obviously some people would prefer to not see those types of things, while others are more comfortable with the human form, so clearly something has to change with Instagram's policy and how they handle "NSFW" content. But as with any issue there is a an issue within; I'm talking about some photographers using this issue to gain attention. They say things like "don't be afraid of art" or "its not erotic" (as if erotic work between 2 consenting adults is bad). The reason this irritates me so much is because men are using this issue to acquire attention and brand their "art" as edgy and revolutionary. "Don't be afraid of the human body... but erotic work is soon bad!" It just feels as if their voices are shouting over the real issue, the fact that female bodies are not treated equally. Instead they are shouting "don't block my art" I could go on but that would be exhausting...

At any case something needs to change on social media.

more to come

-Kayla

Shenandoah National Park

The mountains have always been a place I have naturally wanted to retreat to.

When I was young I used to beg my parents to reroute our drives down to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (our favorite family vacation spot) so we could drive through either Shenandoah National Park or the Blue Ridge Parkway. Feelings of nostalgia overwhelm me when I remember the feeling of summer mountain air hitting me as I pull open our mini-van door. 16-year-old me has freshly dyed blue hair tips and is equipped with an Olympus OM-1 loaded with long expired Kodak Gold 400 IOS film that I found in my parents closet. 

But today is the first day of July 2016 and I am not traveling with my family, but with Jesse, and we are not just driving by, we are camping for 3 nights. We entered the park via Front Royal and made it to our campsite by the afternoon, but not before pulling off several times to take in the view of rolling mountains and patchwork farmland. We set up the tent and geared up for a hike to some waterfalls tucked in the backcountry of the park. The weather was hot and sticky with rain evaporating off the ground. The mist rising from the lush foliage added a dreamy element to our photos. We returned from the hike sweaty and ready for a hearty campfire meal. 

Our second day at Shenandoah started off with tea boiled over the campfire and "fried pies" we bought at a gas station the night before. We decided to make our way south towards Big Meadow. I told Jesse that my goal for the day was to take at least 1 self portrait. As we drove down the Skyline Drive we were treated with amazing overviews, each as amazing as the last. The sun was in full effect as we parked the car and grabbed sandwiches for an impromptu picnic. We set out on foot through the Big Meadow until we found the perfect place to stop and eat; a grassy break in the forest on the perimeter of the meadow protected us from them sun and provided up with the ultimate atmosphere to eat our soggy packaged sandwiches. Afterwords we continued to wander in the grass and ferns, we even met a young deer grazing near the edge of the meadow. After snapping photo after photo we decided to leave the park for a little to check out an abandoned farm we spotted as well as Luray Caverns. The farmhouse was everything we expected, a dilapidated vessel of crumbling paster walls, scattered forgotten belongings, and recent Four Loco cans from the local teenagers. Lurey Caverns was more than we expected; lines and crowds of people waiting to get an entrance ticket as if they were waiting to get into Six Flags. We opted out of the cavern tour because of the wait and found a rinky dink hedge maze to get lost in. It was getting late when we decided to head back to our campsite. 

Our third day at the park was shrouded in clouds. We were delighted to drive through and see mist constantly rolling over the scenery, and of course it made for a great backdrop for photos. We decided to dive all the way thought the Skyline Drive and exit the park to venture into the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest and see the hot springs tucked away in the mountains. We pulled off constantly to along the Skyline Drive to make photos until we exited the park. We drove though the valley and back into the mountains parallel to Shenandoah and wandered until we found an abandoned resort that caught our eyes. We pulled off, hid the car, and sprinted into the cover of overgrown hedges. We explored the building for a while until we got our fix and then we headed back into the park, late again. 

Our last day started by packing up our campsite and making our way back north. It was another misty day so we stopped several time to take photos until we started getting hungry. We continued north until we decided to take a break from drive to explore an abandoned school in Pennsylvania. 

And now we wait for our next adventure

More to come

-Kayla 

Trying out my new camera

Continuing the saga of my "broken" camera, I decided to purchase the Sony a7ii while I send my Nikon D750 back to be fixed. During my trip out west my camera's shutter stopped working properly and I also was getting a consistent light leak on all of my images. This was incredibly annoying for multiple reasons, but the biggest being that I haven't even owned the camera for a full year. Before I initially purchasing the Nikon I was debating purchasing the Sony but decided against it because of the mirrors factor... needless to say that I am kicking myself in the ass. 

Below are photos taken on the Sony a7ii with either a nikon 5mm/f1.8, Voigtlaender 25mm/f4, or my old Olympus OM G Zukio 5mm/f1.4

My trip to the Pacific North West and Beyond

Things work out in very odd ways. I had been going through a difficult time beginning mid April and was in desperate need of a pick up. My friends Jesse and Mike casually invited me on their trip to Seattle and I bought a plane ticket that night. I honestly had no idea what I would be getting myself into but I knew it would be an adventure. I remember when the boys picked me up at the airport I asked "so what exactly are the plans" to which they replied that they didn't really have any set plans; just a general list of things to do while on this trip. So they loaded my (huge) suitcase in the rental jeep and we were on our way.

Upon landing in Seattle we spent the evening buying food, notably croissant donuts that I couldn't even finish eating and lunchables, and trying to find a nice place to camp, but not before we got a chance to see the Vance Creek bridge. 

me by Jesse on the Vance Creek bridge

me by Jesse on the Vance Creek bridge

That night was my second time setting up the tent I bought at LL Bean 2 days before the trip. Also, I did not anticipate the temperature dropping so much at night so I woke up around 5am very cold and having to pee... but I refused to compromise the little heat I had trapped in my thin fleece sleeping bag. I woke up feeling like I had a hangover; I felt sluggish and my eyes were extremely heavy. But I was excited to spend the day in Olympic National Park. 

We were excited for a hike to some hot springs in Olympic national park, but our excitement wasn't enough to curb the length of the hike we didn't know we'd be doing. We hiked probably about 10 miles uphill until we made the unanimous decision to turn around. We had blisters on our feet and we were simply not prepared for what we had embarked on. But the night was still young so we decided to drive up to Forks Washington for supper and to see what La Push Beach had to offer us. 

La Push Beach ended up being the highlight of the day for me. We managed to visit Beach 1 and climb on the giant redwood tree that sits on the beach. We hiked to beach 3 to catch the sunset and I was able to take some self portraits in the lingerie sent to me by Siobhan Barrett Lingerie . After running around on the beach for a few hours the sun had gone down and it was time for us to find our way to our next destination. 

The rough plan was to drive to Canon Beach, OR, and find a place to stay in the vicinity. We had no idea that the entire coast of Oregon was entirely booked. We had a model scheduled to shoot with on Canon Beach early in the morning so we decided to camp out in the rental jeep for the night. When we woke up we tried to get our shit together to meet our model, Grace, near the haystack. Canon beach has been on the top of my list of places to see and I was not disappointed. Unfortunately I realized that my camera was starting to malfunction. I ended up experiencing two very common malfunctions withe the Nikon D750; the light leak and the shutter not opening fully. So from this point forward most, if not all, of my photos had to be cropped to remove the top right corner of all the landscape oriented photos because of the shutter blocking part of the sensor. Also most of the images have a light leak on the right side of my photos. But shit happens 

From this point we drove to Portland to get Voodoo Doughnuts and then we went to Ambiqua Falls for some more photos for Siobhan Barrett

We then drove to Idaho and spent the night in a Motel 6. We woke up well rested and squeaky clean and ready to see the Painted Hills. Again, the Painted Hills have always been something I've wanted to see and photograph. Due to my camera not working I felt very unmotivated to take photos. But this gives me more of a reason to go back one day soon. After melting in the dry desert heat we continued our trip east. We ended up camping in a place I've never heard of before. Craters of the Moon National Preserve ended up being one of my favorite days. We woke up in a campground that consisted of mainly just volcanic rocks. We hiked around for quite a bit of time and took a lot of photos and then we continued west to Yellowstone. 

We arrived at Yellowstone towards the end of the day but we managed to pack in seeing most of the hot springs, small geysers, paint pots, Bison, and Old Faithful of course. We spent the night outside of Yellowstone and spent most of the next day driving through the park and heading to Montana. 

After we exited Yellowstone our next stop would be Glacier National Park. We drove until we found a campsite about an hour away from the park entrance. Glacier was a very impressive park but unfortunately the road through the park was closed part way through; we only got to see a small part of the Park. 

Our last stop on our trip was Seattle, but not before a day spent adventuring around Mt. Rainer. We finally got to experience the moody "Pacific North West" foggy weather as we drove up the mountains. As we climbed it kept getting colder and colder until we reached Paradise Peak and were surrounded by a full on snow storm. 

We decided to split a hotel room for our last night and hung out in the swimming pool until our fingers pruned up. The next morning we headed back into Seattle to meet with our model Ralu; we wandered around the grounds of the Space Needle and the piers. I got to see some familiar art installations including Marc Dion's Neukom Vivarium. 

Before Jesse and Mike had to drop me off at the airport we found an amazing Barbecue walk up/take away place which is probably the best food I've ever had. We returned to the car to eat and talk about all the fun and memories we made during the week. 

more to come

-Kayla 

"Space"

Id like to share with you my final portfolio for my photography IV class: 

This portfolio is titled "Space" and is the continuation of an idea I started working with in 2015. This portfolio ties together a lot of the things I love to do with photography; self portraits, shooting in interesting spaces, playing with light... and so on. 

This portfolio is made up of 18 triptychs that I took using my Nikon D750 and a tripod. I took these photos in various abandoned places around New England, New York State, and rural New Jersey. 

As an artist I am beginning to realize that the space one exists in effects they way they act. In my case, being in an abandoned building with peeling paint and crumbling plaster walls affected the way I posed. If I was posing in a pristine futuristic style building made from concrete and steel I would have posed differently just like if I was posed in a lush grade of flowers I would have posed differently...

You can see this similar effect on people based on where they live. People are effected from living in very poor conditions differently than people who live in affluent communities. However, taking care of the space one is in changes how they are; showing great care about a space, maybe its ones room, town, country, or the planet, makes them act differently than if they did not care for that space.

Being in dilapidated buildings that were once significant in some way is interesting to me. These spaces that I pose myself in are small rooms, large factory floors, open fields; all of which have subtle nuances that cannot be captured on 1 frame. I am learning to love the fact that sometimes the frames don't exactly match up.

As an artist, I never knew what media would stick with me. Ive had the great fortune of being able to try just about every form of media. Ever since middle school photography has been the one constant in my life. It is now what drives me to be better, act better, and do better. As much as I love painting, drawing, and printmaking, photography seems to be the most accurate way for me to communicate my ideas. My art is slightly performance based as well; the act of letting the space I'm surrounded in influence the way my body moves is turning into a ritual. 

The whole idea of "space" is an idea that I plan on using in the future. I also plan on furthering the idea of performance art as well. 

You can see the full series of work here 

more to come

-Kayla 

This 'bando' is 'lit'

Road trips are fun, but confusing toll roads are not. Whats the deal with tolls anyways? Amirite?? Anyways, the mansion we were visiting laid just out of view from the street; quiet, but you could still hear the noise of the cars passing by. We had seemingly unlimited time here, we stayed as long as our cold hands and feet would allow. 

Oh, did I mention that this place still had power? This mansion seemed to be a residential home with most of the previous owners belongs still inside. Baby gates adorned the door frames and there are still clothes in the closets.

The mansion also had a greenhouse attached as well as a small barn and swimming pool. It makes me wonder why anyone would want to leave this place. 

And obviously some self portraits were taken.. 

Some collaborations between Jennie and I 

be sure to keep up with my Instagram and Tumblr to see final edits of these photos!

More to come,

Kayla 

Dr. Oliver Bronson House

the Plumb- Bronson house, or better know as the Oliver Bronson house, began being built in 1811. Some of its best known features are the spiraling staircase that climbs up 3 towering stories and the delicate features that are attributed to the Hudson River Bracketed style architecture. The exterior looks foreboding due to the mix-match looking repairs being made. But the interior is adorned with elegant wallpapers, pastel blue paint, ornate woodwork, and beautiful vintage glass. 

The house was sold by the affluent Oliver Bronson in 1853 and the grounds were converted into a girls school until they changed hands and were turned into a minimum security correctional facility in the late 1970's. The state almost allowed the house to be burned down and use as practice for the local fire department, but thanks to the conservation efforts of the Historic Hudson Society we are still able to marvel at this gem of American architecture.

Historic Hudson Society is currently a few years into a 30 year lease from the state of New York to try and save this house. Their efforts help to maintain the house; keeping the exterior intact to minimize weather damage to the inside of the house as well as minimal repairs to the interior as to keep the house the way its been since the past. Their end goal is to turn this house and the neighboring fields and woods into a state park where people can come to enjoy this house for years to come. Thanks to the generosity of the Historic Hudson Society they allow visits to the Bronson house for small donations that provide funding for the preservation of the house.

If you'd like to know more about the Bronson house please go visit their website  

Self portraits from my first visit in March:

These were taken at my most recent visit at the end of April: 

The way we interact with the space we are in is so important. Wether it is deciding what pose to do in an abandoned house for a photo or dedicating years of your time to preserve a house that people would rather burn down it is important to decided wisely. Our spaces can be destroyed so easily; when they're gone, they're gone. 

More to come,

Kayla 

Isabel and Ethan

It's funny how things work out they way they do. Isabel and her brother turned out to be vacationing from school in my neck of the woods and we set up a shoot. 

We started at a bird sanctuary with beautiful scenery.

Afterwords we made our way to the beach, but not before a quick stop at an abandoned house that I drive past all the time but never actually stopped at. The house was full of belonging left behind... but not in a beautiful way that some abandoned houses are... more in a really gross way with creatures living inside everything... But we managed to take a few good photos. 

By far the best part of this house was the old rusting car in the backyard

Our last stop would be the beach. Plum Island is incredibly beautiful at sunset and it remains that way until the light is completely gone. We took our last few photos with whatever remaining light was left at the beach 

Getting to know me: a working artist statement

Maybe a good way for you to get to know me is by my working artist statement for my most recent series called "Space" 

“Space” is a portfolio built up of 12 triptych taken in 2016 with my Nikon D750 DSLR camera in various spaces. As an artist I am beginning to realize that the space one exists in effects the way they interact with said space. Being in dilapidated buildings that were once significant in some way is interesting to me and this affects the way I posed myself in the setting. These spaces that I pose myself in are small rooms, large factory floors, open fields; all of which have subtle nuances that cannot be captured on 1 frame.