You know that in the game Monopoly there is a card that lets you “Get out of jail free”. This can be helpful. Recently I got into jail, well gaol actually, but it wasn’t free. The gaol in Reading, Berkshire, closed in 2013 but has reopened for a couple of months for an art installation by a group called Artangel. The art is interesting but it’s the gaol’s association with the author Oscar Wilde that’s more interesting. He was incarcerated there for 2 years.
It’s a classic Victorian prison with metal staircases going between the upper and lower levels. I tried to capture the atmosphere with a black & white conversion and a vignette. It was hard to get a shot without another visitor. The image is not quite symmetrical, with the lights being the main source of asymmetry.
In the Old Chapel, latterly a sports hall, they had an art installation. It consisted of Oscar Wilde’s original cell door, and a concrete slab exactly the same size as his cell. The slab made for a useful camera support, as there wasn’t much light around. The 0.5 second exposure shows the flow of the visitors. You can see that they arrived slowly from the left, and left faster to the right, right?
The gaol has changed over the years, with different groups being housed there. In its last incarnation it was a Young Offenders’ Institution, but housed adults, including women, in the past. There are many larger structures and systems that were added since Victorian times, but there is also much evidence of smaller changes. This image is of a cell interior, and you can see that the three missing things weren’t necessarily contemporary. The paint underneath has changed as well.
The light in some of the cells was a very odd colour, and it was very hard, even shooting RAW, to correct for it. I left one this much as it was, as it gives a strange look to the image. I couldn’t decide if it was an art piece, or a bit of litter. It was quite hard to tell…
“Get out of jail free”? No, get along to a gaol if you can, as long as you can leave when you want to!