Juvenile Hall

These are photographs of an abandoned juvenile hall. I spent several years photographing the interior. I knew it more intimately than anyone. It was my escape from depression. In these photographs I waited months for the right combination of interior and exterior elements (sun, wind). I knew these rooms as if they were an installation I was creating, yet I touched nothing. These photographs are internal, reflecting this period in my life; while the ledgers are more external, reflecting the role this building played in the past.

The ledger photographs are from the same juvenile hall. The ink stains and mold growth threaded their way through the veins of the paper, making Rorschach patterns. This natural phenomenon is a powerful poetic illustration of the psychological impact this institution had on the children detained there.

from KalaArt Institute in Berkeley:

Bay Area artist James Sansing explores a landscape of a different variety; the interior landscape of the adolescent mind. During a covert “breaking and entering” project that lasted nearly ten years, Sansing compulsively photographed psychiatric ledgers found in a crumbling abandoned juvenile hall. The ledgers containing the counselors’ daily hand-written commentary on the incarcerated adolescents never removed from the building when it was closed in the 1970’s. A number of the books found lying open on the floor were covered with ink stains and mold growth in Rorschach patterns, adding to the psychological impact of the discovery. For his exhibition at Kala, Sansing has created both digital prints and a video animation from the ledger pages. The video work presents the process of looking through a five hundred page ledger book of hand-written notes as a digital flip-book representing a period in the life an individual.