5:30 in the morning and 15 degrees outside. We pull up in the darkness to a frigid beach prepared to take a long hike. We pass frozen jellyfish, a man and his dog, and several abandoned dingys left on the icy shore. The sky is hazy and it slowly illuminates the landscape. I have a camera bag strapped to my back with aerial maps of the surroundings to show me where the guard stations sit on our journey. Wrapped in several layers of clothing, a scarf wrapped around my head to where I can barely see, and a fanny pack filled with makeup essentials for when we arrive at our location. My photo ready clothes are underneath all my layers and my neck and wrists are stacked with jewelry. This is how you sneakily pull off an unnoticed photo shoot where you aren't supposed to be.
We carefully maneuver over ice covered stones, trying not to fall but moving quickly as possible. The more light that comes out the less safe I feel crossing a condemned bridge with guard towers at either end without getting spotted. Finally we hike until the land ends and are beneath the glacial bridge. I move ahead; scaling a thorn and snow covered mud dune to take a peek at our passage. It is fully light out by now, and spot a white car drive away from the tower. I can't be sure, but I can hear movement in the desolate area and feel less than confident about crossing a forbidden bridge at daybreak all non nonchalant as if I didn't know I wasn't supposed to be there.
Begrudgingly we start the long trek back to the car, and discuss where we can shoot next since we still have the whole day ahead of us. Disappointed I can't snap any iphone photos of the area - but it is far too cold and windy on the beach to even pull a finger out of my gloves. We stop at our usual adventuring feeding trough; the whole foods prepared food section. After devouring a vegan fest big enough to fill my belly, (and the void in my soul), we decide to hit up a favorite old spot that is in the midst of being demolished for one last jaunt. I require vegan cake after disappointment, or a strenuous adventure.
A couple hours later we arrive at our destination and slap on a little face paint before heading into the long abandoned "school for the feeble minded". It is like a magical ice fortress inside. These buildings are in serious decay, perhaps this one the worst. We slide across the theater floor on ice and find a hallway with some light to pose in. Each of us reluctantly takes turns peeling off our protective layers and performs a series of poses in the ice castle. The cold is numbing, to your body and your brain. We take turns composing shots for each other; we search for the perfect backdrops through the crumbling hallways, stopped to snap pictures of one another in the outfits and jewelry we made inspired in by locations just like this.
Moving on we cross the campus of snow and slide down a stairway that has turned into an ice ramp, venturing into another building we know has an eery interior. This building has less damage to the roof and requires flashlights to maneuver inside. Our adventure packs are filled with more than just makeup and cameras. Simultaneously we whip out our flashlights and begin searching the creepy halls for a particular room. On the first floor we come upon a lighted room with some sort of gurney. I immediately imagine a shot and set the camera up. Casey quickly hops out of her warm attire and sits on the disturbing old "chair". This is the second time we see what appears to be blood smeared all over the furniture. Hopefully fake, I brush it off like its not totally bizarre. The history of these buildings include a description by the author Benjamin Ricci as "horrific", "medieval, and "barbaric".
We continue the search for the jungle room which is on an upper floor. I stick my flashlight in my mouth and cling to the metal bannisters in the pitch black stairway, pulling myself up what were once stairs and now an ice ramp from water leaking into the building. Finally we find the room we are looking for and see that it is in total darkness. We decide to just try it after taking a couple pictures with the flash, it just meant I would have to stand in total frigid darkness and pose. I awkwardly try to compose what I think the picture will look like in my head, and hold still in each position while Casey fires the camera off.
I don't think about how this school was known for inhumane conditions and poor treatment of its patients before it's eventual closing in the 90's. That's not the sort of stuff you want to think about alone with your friend in an abandoned "mental hospital" surrounded by inky darkness and arctic temperatures. Quickly we decide we've had enough of being human popsicles for the day and pack our things. Running across the deep piles of fresh snow to the car a feeling of relief and success comes over me. I know we got some cool shots and had a great time.
Written by Jessie.