ALCATRAZ ISLAND - CALIFORNIA
ALCATRAZ ISLAND (Sp., pelican), in the bay between San Francisco and Sausalito, is one of the world’s most feared and widely publicized penal institutions, the Federal prison for incorrigibles (visitors by warden’s permission only). Alcatraz, known colloquially as “The Rock,” a 12-acre island, was fortified by the Spanish prior to American occupation. From 1859 it was used as a military prison and a United States Army disciplinary barracks; during and after the World War many conscientious objectors were removed here from Fort Leavenworth. Alcatraz was made a Federal penitentiary in 1933, to house unruly prisoners form other Federal institutions. The rigid discipline, its elaborate barriers to prevent escape, including the “electric eye” to detect the presence of metal on a prisoner, and the names of its notorious inmates have combined to make thousands of newspaper headlines. Swift currents flowing around “The Rock” make escape by water practically impossible. Two prisoners made the attempt in 1938, but their ultimate success or failure is unknown.
—California, A Guide To the Golden State (WPA, 1939)
Before visiting Alcatraz I was worried the island would be some kind of weird Disney type of tourist trap. Such a famous landmark with so much history can often be sucked dry of the uniqueness and truth of the place. I was surprised to find that Alcratraz, although a bit touristy in certain aspects, was pretty damn authentic. It had creepily empty corners and areas everywhere I looked, and I wasn’t left feeling like I had been robbed of the authenticity of the place. Every shadow dripped with history and the past and my mind couldn’t help but creating story lines for every shot I took. Disney it is not.
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EE Berger is a photographer Detroit bred and Brooklyn based. She seeks out emptiness, solitude and peaceful moments and was recently selected as one of Photoboite’s “30 Women Photographers Under 30” for 2013. You can find her on Tumblr at eeberger.tumblr.com, and find her website at eebergerphoto.com.