Focus on Architecture: Story Behind the Photo

This week’s featured Focus on Architecture winning entry is by Diana Osterfeld and won a Judge’s Award.

Ellis Island

Ellis Island

“Restoration is wonderful but I feel that looking at ruins is best way to get a feel for what went on. This photograph is the Boiler Room in the hospital on Ellis Island’s South Side. In addition to seeing the now archaic technology, the unrestored boiler rooms shows the passage of time.

The gloominess lets you image the hum of the coal (?) boiler. In the daylight streaming through the open door, you can image workers delivering heaps of coal to be shoveled into the bottom oven doors. You can hear the clank of the heavy metal as they clamped them shut and the knocking of the pipes as the heat traveled throughout the Hospital Grounds. Now you can envision all of the people in the other rooms we walked through, using the hot water, or sitting by the heaters awaiting their fate. To me it represented the invisible hearth or engine that kept the place running. And time has left it invisible.

The actual room was a bit darker, without any artificial light. It was visible only through a window in the hallway. I positioned the camera against the window glass and shot without flash, as the glass would have reflected it. It was an ISO 400, Aperture 2.8 with an auto shutter which was definitely very slow. Only pressing the lens against the glass and bracing the camera on the window sill prevented shutter shake.”

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