“Truth, like art, is in the eye of the beholder. You believe what you choose and I’ll believe what I know.” ~ Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
For the past few years I’ve had the privilege of photographing public gardens for Horticulture Magazine. My last assignment took me to Alcatraz, the last place you would expect to find beautiful gardens and landscape. Quick history, this maximum federal prison in the San Francisco Bay closed it’s doors in 1963, along with the gardens cultivated by the prison’s inmates. In 2003, the Garden Conservancy, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and National Park Service began a collaboration to restore the gardens.
I was able to capture the images needed for the magazine feature before high sun. With time to spare on the island, we were given a backstage pass to the upper levels of the prison and to the Ai Weiwei exhibit, which was on its last day of viewing.
In the prison, we were ushered to the upper deck of Block C and given access to the lever which secures the entire cell block. Standing in the darkness, the sound of 50 cells slamming shut, with the final latch of the deadbolt, is a sound you want to quickly erase from your tape. I took a moment to stand inside a cell and decided to capture a few images looking out and across the aisle. Clearly, this place was designed to house the worse of the worst.
The bonus of the visit was the Ai Weiwei @Large exhibit. We happened to be on the island on the last day of the Exhibit and our host generously walked us through. “Ai Weiwei is a Chinese Contemporary artist and activist. A political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government’s stance on democracy and human rights. After many arrests and incarcerations in China, Ai Weiwei was, in July of 2015, given a passport and is now allowed to travel abroad. If you are interested and would like to learn more about Ai Weiwei and his art, this is a wonderful article. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/sep/24/ai-weiwei-alcatraz-lego-extraordinary
If you have a bird phobia, you’ll want to make note that Alcatraz is a nesting colony for Western Gulls. There were a few Hitchcock moments.
Without further ado, here are my favorite images from Pier 33 to Alcatraz and back. Enjoy! ✌🏾
Now it gets real.