Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jail Break . . . or Jail Bait ?

The grilled window photo in the post just below this one is visible at the left side of this first shot. The gate is to a large and apparently disaffected military building near the port in the city of Brest, way out at the western tip of mainland France. If you were standing here, and turned around, you would find yourself facing the Prison of Pontaniou, built from 1805 to 1810, and closed as a prison in 1990. It looked like a grim place. I searched on the internet, but could not find much in the way of interesting stories about this prison. I would love to get inside it to photograph whatever remains of the interior. This desire being due to my love for such old buildings, but also partly inspired by Tom Bejgrowicz and his blog TomB. Photography. He does beautiful work with abandoned buildings, having photographed many such places mainly in the northeastern USA, but I suspect he would be game to travel more if the occasion arose. . . For me, and Tom I suspect, a site like this is bait that we would love to sink our photographic teeth into . . .
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A plaque in the stone wall outside the prison states that this was the last place that some men stayed after much suffering, drawn into the war and toward their tragic destiny, Prison of Pontaniou, August 1944. I couldn't find much to elaborate on what happened here during the Second World War when the Germans used this building to imprison resistance fighters, some of whom were deported from here to camps in Germany or farther east.
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If you Google Pontaniou Prison you can find a collection of black and white photos from 1990 when the prison closed for good, and also a news video about a photographer who did a series of nude portraits of herself inside the abandoned prison . . . an original idea, though I'm not sure that you'd want me to repeat the experience.
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As I said, a grim looking facade . . .
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Although fighting fascism is a fine sentiment, the comment about de Gaulle here is of dubious taste . . .
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27 comments:

@eloh said...

That just looks like death waiting.

Female nudes inside an abandoned prison... I don't want to see them... but she obviously has an interesting mind.

Don't do it Owen, about the time you get all in the buff a bunch of ghosties would run you off. Then where would you be... naked in the street with the cops doing the photography..that's where.

Owen said...

@eloh, you get the early bird award today ! And for sure, you won't catch me in a place like that out of my skivies... no way... and no doubt plenty of ghosts in a place like that...

Martin H. said...

Owen

Very impressive sequence. Like you, I'm intrigued by old abandoned buildings.

Steve said...

Wow. One of the grimmest houses of correction I've ever seen. Made me shiver.

Deborah said...

The photo of the bricked up doorway says it all - hopelessness and termination.

I really enjoy the things you see and the way you see them.

The Sagittarian said...

Ah yes, if you can't do the time don't do the crime...great pix Owen. The local ex-prison here has been turned into a restaurant and accommodation place! The ol' You can check out but never leave concept perhaps!

Bill Evertson said...

As always, I stand in awe of your range of subjects; from the very bright and color filled to the abandoned and decayed. I hope somehow you get your wish to do some interior shots here.

robert said...

Luckily we can change the 'buildings' we life inside and smile.

A thought to be kept for more than this day, I'd like to wish you a happy Thursday.

Dedene said...

Creepy place. Someday they'll get around to tearing it down.
Love the graffiti. It always speaks the "truth".

Tom Bejgrowicz said...

I hope they never tear these places down. It's time to acknowledge the past and bring full circle. There's a local prison that's trying desperately to turn a new leaf and become a restaurant, a club, etc. It's better than ripping down the past in hopes of "progress." Anyway, that's how I feel… and thanks for the nod, Owen. Nice one.

TechnoBabe said...

Ha! Good header to perk the interest. These are such good photos, I am particularly taken with the third photo down, the view from the side maybe is what is so intriguing. I would like to keep a copy of this photo for a future post on my blog if you would give me permission, please.

La Framéricaine said...

Owen,

What do you suppose the statistical odds are for the two of us to use the word "jailbait" within 12 hours of one another in print in cyberspace? Just askin'...

(Please insert the soundtrack from the Twilight Zone here, now...)

the watercats said...

ugh..... what a pit of gloom..... I like the way you don't always show France in the artisan, poetic, flouncy, husky voiced lady, way that a lot of pictures of france depict. It's good to see it can be as horrible, grey and piss stinking as any other human inhabited space can be :-)

jeff said...

Ciao Owen ! Je vois que les taggeurs, grapheurs, ont essayé de donner de la vie à cet endroit ! Et c'est pas plus mal !... Toujours en baisse de régime ?... Viens sous le figuier boire une tise d'orange bien fraîche ! C'est ma tournée !...;-)

A bientôt Owen !
Amitiés...;-)

Virginia said...

The grafitti is almost as bad as the prison itself. I'll not take off on one of my fine graffiti rants right here but suffice it to say it aggravates the fool out of me.
V

Adam said...

Great photos - isn't all of Brest a bit grim though?

swan said...

I come to your page and am the spirit of adventure is pressed deeper into my heart... I ache to travel more and still more. Ahhh your page is marvelous!
swan

AB said...

The photoblog Explorations of Beauty and Decay has some great photos of abandoned buildings in the industrial, war-scarred Saarland area. The site is difficult to navigate, but every photo is a gem.

BLOGitse said...

no, no I don't want to go in!!!
I don't have to? Oh, thanks!

Great pictures! :)

Owen said...

Hi Martin... it's amazing how many abandoned sites there are in various places when one starts to dig a little...

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Hey Steve, I'm not sure how much "correction" goes on inside such houses, you can practically feel how the human soul would shrink and shrivel up when confined in such a dim and dank looking place. It seemed almost a caricature to me, like something out of a Dickens novel...

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Deborah, many thanks... I suspect this was indeed the terminal station at the end of the line for a certain number of people...

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Dear Sajsis, might not be easy to go out for dinner in a place where one had been incarcerated, and yeah, probably better to avoid having to do time in places like this... Amazing how many people don't think about where they may end up before doing the crazy things they do...

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Hey Bill, am glad you're enjoying the variety, am trying to keep things mixed up here, and explore a wide range of subject matter encountered while wandering... I love to just get out and wander, let my nose, my curiosity guide me... Punishment in a place like this must have been a horrifying experience...

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Robert, indeed, indeed, after seeing a place like this one can really appreciate coming home to one's "nest" where one has created a little safe haven of comfort and security... with art on the walls and books and good food and windows with no bars....

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Hi Dedene, I wonder if it will be torn down, I'm not sure what is planned, if anything. Maybe the city will just let it slowly continue to crumble, as it is currently doing... And the graffiti speaks, for sure, whether it is the "truth" or not is another question I guess...

Owen said...

Hey Tom, yeah, I'd hate to see a place like this disappear, knocked down by a wrecking ball. IMHO it should be a museum at least, where we could learn a little about the lives of the people who lived there, and the reasons they were there, no doubt many a fascinating story buried in the archives if they still exist. Much of Brest was levelled by allied bombing raids during WWII, perhaps this place survived as it was known to house resistance prisoners... Your Essex County Jail photos are superb...

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Hi TechnoB, you are very welcome to use that photo if it can help illustrate a topic you'd like to expand on... let me know when you do as I'll be curious to see what it becomes a part of...

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Hi Framére, you have me intrigued now, I went and read your recent posts at... well, at the protection program, and didn't see "jailbait", so please do let me know where it is??? It is not a term I use often, and you probably don't either, so I guess the odds are pretty slim... ! But I could see from reading your latest that you seem to be having an awfully good time in sunny Mexico... color me green ! Hasta banana !

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Hey Water-meows, although France's romantic, city of light, Pont d'Avignon, Eiffel Tower, fashion capital, sexy glamourous reputation is no doubt based on some elements of truth, you are dead right, it is far from immune from any myriad of woes intrinsic to the modern world, a crumbling past, dark with blood and sordid stories, just like anywhere else... and stumbling onward, through the fog... and I love to get out there and rummage in the refuse of history, where every now and then a little gem turns up among the awful piles of offal...
;-)

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Cher Jeff ! Les taggeurs sont actifs partout, avec des résultats mixtes. Certains sont des oeuvres d'art, bcp sont de la vraie M****, avec un M Majuscule. Et moi, en baisse de régime ? Tu parles, c'est le boulot qui mine mon temps et énergie, surtout en cette fin d'année soucieuse de reprise timide mais une activité qui a repris avec un petit coup de fouet, et je me trouve le dos plein de coups de fouet, comme un bagnard.... savais-tu que cet endroit faisait partie de ce que l'on appellait la bagne de Brest ? Et oui, ce batiment était la Madeleine, le prison de Pontaniou... sans doute pas la même madeleine ce dont nous régalait mr Proust... alors, oui, je cours pour ne pas me faire submerger par le boulot, et puis le temps pour mon humble petit blog, et les blogs de tous ceux que j'adore visiter régulièrement, ça se trouve raccourci méchamment, me laissant en manque, car c'est un plaisir de sortir souvent et allez vous voir, toi et tous... bon, cela se calmera j'espère...
Ciao mon ami...

Owen said...

Hi Virginia, hmmm, I'm sure I'd like to hear one of your graffiti rants. There is very little graffiti that I consider worthy of praise or could call a work of art. So much of it is just perfect crap, eyesores, the wasted paint of wasted minds, in every sense. Graffiti could be so much better than most of it is, decorating otherwise grim surfaces with fine art that would be a pleasure to look at. But no, so much of it is just a headache to see, sickening, totally lacking in respect for the owners of the property defaced, totally lacking in any redeeming quality whatsoever, just visual aggression perpetrated by delinquent idiots... But I'm not going to go on rant here either, not a good subject to get me started on...
:-D
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Hey Adam, well, I'm not sure that ALL of Brest is grim, there are some nice water views across la Rade de Brest, and some parts of town are trying to come back to life, but so much of it was rebuilt after the bombings of WWII, they were obviously afflicted with bored post war concrete loving architects with limited imaginations... But right underneath where the last couple of pictures were taken stairs go down the hill to the oldest surviving medieval street in Brest, some quite lovely structures almost still standing there... I haven't seen all of Brest though, but yes, I think there are alot of stretches of visual wastelands... but that is true of many cities in France...

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Hey Swan ! it's been a little while... hope you are staying artistically busy... I'm betting you are... will have to get around this weekend to see what you've been up to... If anything in these pages inspires you to travel or to look more intensely at your surroundings, then I am happy !

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AB, many thanks for the recommendation, I'll go take a look... in my sidebar here, there are three links in the "Don't Miss These Worlds" list for other abandoned building sites... Opacity is particularly good, if you like that sort of thing... (which I do !)

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Blogitse, what, you're not guilty and don't want to go ?!? Aren't we all guilty of something ? Don't worry whatever it was you did that had you worried there, we will forgive it, and just sentence you to coming back and looking at these pages every now and then. And it is not always prison fare that you'll be forced to digest, in fact, coming this weekend, I may just invite you all out to a particularly good restaurant.... sound like a good idea ??? Stay tuned...
:-D

BLOGitse said...

restaurant? oh YES! I've never been in a restaurant in Paris!
And here...Cairo's traffic is so bad that I rather stay in our home restaurant; good food & red wine = all you need! But to visit your restaurant - totally different thing! :)
I'm waiting for the invitation!
ps. I'm not guilty...not even fines! :) I'm a good 'girl'. So, a prison is not for me! :) Have a great Friday evening!

Jessie said...

Your photos make these places look beautiful. I do enjoy the beauty of the wear and tear on buildings. It gives it an air of mystery and history. ooo I didn't mean that to rhyme! :)

Margaret Pangert said...

hI Owen~ This makes me think of the movie Papillon, but I guess there were no cliffs to jump off.

Sar@h said...

Eh ! eh ! J'y suis allée du temps où c'était habité. Le parloir était en entresol, dans une cellule voutée assez intimiste. Qui plus est tout se savait. Je me souviens de la voix d'un autre locataire dans les étages hurlant : "Ça va bien à Morlaix ?" lors de mon passage. Je n'avais osé lui répondre, mais j'avais chargé l'entretenu de transmettre mon bonjour à l'intéressé.

Owen said...

Blogitse, well dining in can be just as good as dining out, especially with no traffic between the living room and the dining room, and no honking taxis in the kitchen... And glad to hear you are behaving yourself, not even a fine ! That is good, very good...
:-D

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Jessie, mystery and history, you're a poet, and don't know it...

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Margaret, ahhh, Papillon, that was a great movie, and I would guess that some folks imprisoned here may have been sent off to Guyana. My wife has visited the prison on Devil's Island, she has photos of trees growing up through the former cells... What a sad comment about humanity that we even need prisons...

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Sar@h, quelle histoire ! Et j'imagine au temps que c'était encore habité, les appareils photos n'étaient pas les bienvenus... j'aimerais bcp voir l'intérieur aujourd'hui. J'ai trouvé un site où des personnes parlaient d'avoir passé le mur avec une corde...