Essex County Jail

 

 

The former Essex Country Jail sits forlorn and abandoned amidst desolate parking lots and lifeless prefab boxes. In the so-called University Heights “neighborhood,” the jail is testimony to the past. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, this 1837 structure is one of the oldest jails in America. Abandoned for over thirty years, no successful preservation efforts have materialized.

Gradually, the urban jungle of junk trees, vines, and garbage conquers the veritable old fortress. The warden’s garden that zealous prisoners formerly pruned and weeded is now overrun with weeds. Used syringes line the cell-block floors. Not a single window is unbroken. Not a single wall is straight or strong. The rigid geometry defined this urban castle is now blanketed in decay.

Yet, this fortress of old is still a home. A constant trail of homeless squeeze through the rusted barbed wire fencing. They carry with them their few odd “valuables,” cans to be recycled or shopping bags of discarded clothes. Every night, they sleep in the very cells their luckless brethren slept in decades before. Every day, they aimlessly wander city streets. Ironically, the physical prison of brute force and searchlights has evolved into a metaphorical bastion of poverty. Both prisons, new and old, are refuges for the luckless. As its occupants have changed, so has the prison. Both are ghosts. Both are vanishing.

Explore this jail as an interactive exhibit online.

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To see a film featuring the work above: click here

Newark’s Hidden River

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It is ironic that Newark should ignore the very river it was founded on – The Passaic River. It was the pristine wooded river our city’s founding fathers first saw in 1666. It was our city’s artery to the sea and industry’s source of income. It was the throbbing, flowing heart of our city.

After the automobile, the Passaic was no longer the watery highway of old. It is now this industrial town’s polluted heart. The bland corporate towers of Newark’s “Renaissance” meet our city’s industrial past at the riverbank. The murky waters contain secrets that will remain forever unknown. The industrial past clings on, refusing to vanish in forgotten waters. The river of change, the Passaic River, is a place of shifting contrasts where past meets present.

The river flows on.

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To see a film featuring the work above: click here