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(December 17-21, 2004)

Betka Burger

My family is the sanctuary

Will Brown

The Catholic Chaplain's Office

Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

December 21, 2004, 19:54 UTC, (13:54 EST)

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© 2004 Will Brown, All Rights Reserved.

Although the Catholic Chaplain's offices would probably not be considered a sanctuary, certainly the chaplain would have come here for solace and reflection. And too, the anonymous artist who painted these naive, yet charming murals found this office a place to retreat from his cell and lose himself in his work forgetting for a moment his incarceration.

Sometime between 1872 and 1885 these rooms were constructed in the outdoor area between Cell Blocks 9 and 1. This open, skylit space was originally built for the controversial Warden Michael Cassidy, and the Warden's Office was moved from the Administration Building to this area. Amid security concerns, the Warden's Office was relocated to the Administration Building in 1923–24. It became the Catholic Chaplain's office sometime in the mid-20th century. In May 1955, a convict who had "turned to Roman Catholicism and art" covered the walls of the office with intricate religious paintings. He signed his work not with his name but with "Paul Martin", his two favorite saints. The paintings depict traditional Catholic themes with prison details.

Eastern State Penitentiary opened in 1829 as part of a controversial movement to change the behavior of inmates through "confinement in solitude with labor," Eastern State Penitentiary quickly became the most expensive and most copied building in the young United States. It is estimated that more than 300 prisons worldwide are based on the Penitentiary's wagon-wheel, or "radial" floor plan.

Some of America's most notorious criminals were held in the Penitentiary's vaulted, sky-lit cells, including bank robber Willie Sutton and Al Capone. After 142 years of consecutive use, Eastern State Penitentiary was completely abandoned in 1971, and now stands, a lost world of crumbling cell blocks and empty guard towers.
For further information about this National Historic site visit the Eastern State Penitentiary website

For additional panoramas of this site by Will Brown click here
Canon 1Ds; Sigma 12-24mm lens, Bogen 3221 tripod with Manfrotto 438 levelling head and Jasper Pano head.
Behind the scene : how this panorama was made
Using Sigma 12-24mm lens, I shot six shots around in portrait mode using a full frame Canon 1Ds. In addition I shot one image up and one down. The images were shot at 1/2 second at f16 in raw format and converted to tiff using Canon's File Viewer Utility.

Four of the views (the ones that incuded the widows and skylight) were additionally shot at 1/10 of a second at f16 and then layered with the same lighter view in Photoshop to balance out the strong light through the widows and skylight.

The down shot required some retouching and cropping because portions of the tripod would have otherwise appeared in the finshed pano.

The images were stitched in PTMac.

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