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Past Abandoned America Photography Workshops

When I started my business teaching photography workshops, one of the core principles was that I wanted to use them to help the places I love. A portion of the proceeds of each workshop is paid for property rental to site owners to help with maintenance, taxes, and restoration. While this will never be enough in itself to save a site, since April 2013 I have paid a total of over $100,000 to the various places I've worked with, including the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation, SS United States Conservancy, National Museum of Industrial History, the Old Game Farm, the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery Inc., and more. Through the workshops photographers gained legal access into otherwise hard to visit locations, and I worked to teach people how to take better photographs and encouraged a greater appreciation for these amazing spots.

During workshops I am on hand to help you get better shots - poorly lit environments can be pretty tough to navigate photographically and I encourage you to come with questions. All levels of experience, from beginner to expert, are welcome. I've been photographing abandoned buildings for 10 years, and am a trained architectural photographer. In addition I have taught photography, including at Rochester Institute of Technology where I earned my MFA in Imaging Arts and Sciences. I want you to leave with pictures you're proud of and no question is too simple or complicated.

If you have questions or are thinking about signing up, please read the Workshop FAQ Page! I also recommend joining the Facebook Photo Workshops group, where you can see images from each place and ask other attendees questions directly. Visit this page to see current photography workshops.


Scranton Lace Company Workshop

Location: Scranton Lace Co., Scranton PA
Date/Times Available:
No more Scranton Lace workshops are being held due to site deterioration!

The Site: Established in 1890 and incorporated in 1897, the Scranton Lace Factory was once one of the premier producers of a variety of textiles ranging from tablecloths, napkins, yarn, lace, laminates, and many others. During World War II they provided parachutes, tarpaulins, and camouflage netting to the allies. Scranton Lace is an enormous complex that once employed 1,400 people and boasted its own gym, barbershop, theater, four lane bowling alley, and an infirmary for its employees. Risky investments and advances in technology led to a slow decline in the textile mill's prominence. In their final days the staff had dwindled to fifty (given the size of the buildings, one wonders how often they even crossed paths) and had average annual sales of about six million. In 2002 they finally shut their doors, and thus an era of prosperity and pride for many of their employees ended as well. As of January 2017 over $12,000 has been generated through the workshops for the site.

For more details, click here.

Pennhurst Night Photography Workshop

Location: Spring City, PA
AUGUST 19 6:30 PM - 10:30 PM
Cost: $195/ea.

The Site: During this workshop we will spend the entirety of the time on the grounds of Pennhurst's campus as opposed to entering the buildings; participants will be given more freedom to wander the grounds than on any previous workshop. We'll focus primarily on long exposures and using exposure bracketing. While photographers of all levels are allowed to attend, this event is better suited to photographers who possess dSLR cameras and tripods. Use of flash is, as a general rule, not permitted. This is an unprecedented opportunity to visit a place that has been a legendary source of fantastic images for decades. As of January 2017 over $33,000 has been generated through the workshops for the site.

For more details, click here.

Pennhurst State School and Hospital Photo Workshop

Location: Spring City, PA
JUNE 25, 2016 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM SOLD OUT
JULY 24, 2016 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM SOLD OUT
Cost: $190/ea.

The Site: Pennhurst's story echoes that of many of the asylums and institutions. Built in 1908 with high hopes and a sprawling campus that had everything a community could need - including a barber shop, a greenhouse, a fire station, a movie theater, and a general store - Pennhurst rapidly devolved into a site synonymous with well documented overcrowding and neglect that caused the adults and children who resided there to regress further and further from functionality. In 1968 a disturbing documentary featuring the site titled 'Suffer the Little Children' was produced wherein a visibly distraught reporter chronicled abysmal conditions including one interview where a doctor openly admitted to giving a bully among the residents the most painful injection he could concoct to deter him from abusing others. Ultimately it was closed in 1986 amid a storm of charges of physical and sexual abuse, improper restraint and seclusion, corruption, mismanagement, and neglect. Click here for past Abandoned America galleries of Pennhurst's buildings.

During the workshop we will have access to the overgrown grounds as well as the enormous Mayflower and Devon buildings. This is an unprecedented opportunity to visit a place that has been a legendary source of fantastic images for decades. As of January 2017 over $33,000 has been generated through the workshops for the site.

For more details, click here.

Victory Theatre Photography Workshop
Featuring Matt Lambros of After the Final Curtain

Location: Victory Theatre, Holyoke MA
Dates/Times Available:
APRIL 9, 2016 9:00 AM - 1:00 PM
APRIL 9, 2016 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM SOLD OUT
Cost: $150/ea.

The Site: The Victory Theatre opened on December 31, 1920 in Holyoke, Massachusetts. The 1,680 seat theater was built by Mowll & Rand, an architecture firm based out of Boston. The Victory’s name is a reference to the Allied forces victory during World War I. Upon opening the Victory was run as a combination house, showing both films and vaudeville. With vaudeville’s decline in the early 1930s the theater discontinued the vaudeville performances in favor of the more popular motion picture screenings. The theater closed permanently on December 15, 1978 due to declining ticket sales. The city took ownership of the theater soon after due to non-payment of taxes. In September 2008, the city of Holyoke transferred ownership of the theater to the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, who plan to renovate the theater and reopen it as a performing arts center. Half of the workshop proceeds will go to the restoration effort. As of July 2015 nearly $5,000 has been generated through the workshops to the restoration effort.

For more details, click here.

Leap of Faith Photograph Workshop 2: 2015 Edition

Location: It's a Mystery! (One hour from Harrisburg, PA)
Dates/Times Available:
October 17, 2015 10:30 AM - 2:30 PM
Cost: $150/ea.

The Site: Last year I introduced a Leap of Faith workshop where I didn't tell people what the site was, just that it was worth visiting. I've finally got a date for the second installment for 2015. I am not going to give you details on what or where the building is (obviously you'll get directions when you sign up but not much more), but I will tell you a few things, and they are as follows: it is a large building. I thought it was really neat and has tons of excellent photography opportunities. I have not seen other photographs of the interior. We may only get one opportunity to visit for a workshop. It is relatively structurally safe although I do highly recommend a respirator as there may be mold. As of November, 2015 over $2,000 has been generated through the workshops for the site.

For more details, click here.

Mount Moriah Cemetery Night Photography Workshop

Location: Mt. Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia PA
Date/Time: April 4, 2015 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Cost: $130/ea.

The Workshop: During the workshop we will explore the cemetery from around sunset into the night. Since there will be minimal moonlight (as on the night the images on this page were taken), we will be working to take ambient light photographs using long exposures, practicing light painting, and a few lighted set ups depending on the interest level of the participants (I prefer ambient light, but I'm flexible). The Haunt of Mount Moriah will join us and share her knowledge of the area and its lore. While the grounds of the cemetery are open to the public, it is much safer to do night photography here as a group! Don't feel afraid to ask me even questions that may seem silly to you. I want you to leave with pictures you're proud of. I've been doing this for a while and want you to learn from my mistakes and successes. Please note it is very important that you bring a tripod and at least one flashlight!

The Site: Mount Moriah Cemetery, modeled after the New Burying Ground in New Haven, Connecticut; the Pere Lechaise Cemetery outside Paris; and Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia is arguably Pennsylvania's "Grande Dame" of the 19th Century rural cemetery movement. Seated in both Philadelphia and Delaware Counties, this bucolic hallowed ground was once herald as the largest privately owned, non-sectarian cemetery in Pennsylvania. It was chartered by the State Legislature on March 26, 1855 with an initial purchase of 54 acres, its rolling hills eventually expanded to a reported 380 acres.

One hundred and fifty six years after its incorporation, the Mount Moriah Cemetery ceased operations. The Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, originally formed in the late 1990’s, restructured and set its sight on preserving the cemetery. While it is estimated that their efforts have cleared 25% of the brush in the enormous cemetery, the remaining portion is overgrown, a continually changing landscape shaped by the Friends' war against the weeds. They will join us to answer questions and tell us about some of the amazing hidden spaces on the grounds while we photograph from afternoon to early evening. 50% of the proceeds will go to the Friends, who will use it in their ongoing effort to make Mt. Moriah a safe and accessible place for people to visit their ancestors' grave sites. As of July, 2015 nearly $1,900 has been generated through the workshops for the site.

For more details, click here.

Steam & Steel Workshop

Location: Multiple locations (see below), Bethlehem PA & Phillipsburg, NJ
Date/Time: August 23, 2014, appx 7 hours.
Cost: $140/ea.

The Sites: This workshop, "Steam & Steel" takes place at 2 amazing locations. The National Museum of Industrial History in association with the Smithsonian Institution will open its warehouses in the Bethlehem PA area to photographers on November 9.

One location is NMIH's "Closed Storage Facility." A visit to this rarely seen warehouse will provide a sneak peek at current and future restoration projects. Grease, dust, and rust are the rule in this building. It houses a core collection of items recovered from the Bethlehem, PA Plant of Bethlehem Steel. There is a pair of Bethlehem Steel firetrucks, hundreds of wooden foundry patterns, a 25-ton diesel electric locomotive native to Open Hearth #3, and a plethora of other industrial relics. Additional items collected by NMIH representing broader American industry include 1890s vintage rug making machinery from Lomax in Philadelphia, belt driven air compressors built in Easton, PA, and Phillipsburg, NJ, machine tools including the camelback drill press used at General Trexler's estate, and possibly more items that are still on their way. This location will be dirty and may include operating mobile equipment.

Hidden away in the woods north of Phillipsburg, NJ, is a remarkably complete 1913 water pumping station once operated by the Peoples Water Company. The centerpiece of the facility is a 51 foot tall pumping engine. Known as "Big Alice," the 300 horsepower, vertical, triple-expansion steam engine was built by Allis Chalmers of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It pumped six million gallons of water a day from the Delaware River up to a reservoir which served Phillipsburg, New Jersey. The engine operated into the 1980s and is now cared for by the Friends of the New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center, which utilize the pump house as a storage facility.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to visit a climate-controlled facility featuring restored equipment dating to the mid-nineteenth century. Gold leaf, polished iron, and silk threads bespeak the artistry of the engines, machine tools, and looms housed here. Highlights of the collection include the oldest surviving large-scale refrigeration compressor in America (1884), the oldest surviving American built 4-cycle gas engine (1882), an 1875 Otis elevator, and several looms from Scalamandre of Long Island City, NY. These looms produced fabric for the White House, Hearst Castle, Biltmore estate, and many other prestigious sites. As of July, 2015 over $7,000 has been generated through the workshops for the locations.

For more details click here.

Abandoned Clothing Mill Photography Workshop

Location: Abandoned Clothing Mill, PA
Date/Time: May 4, 2014 10:30 AM - 2:30 PM
Cost: $115/ea.

The Site: Originally built in 1910 as a silk mill, this mill employed 110 people by 1914. Of those, fourteen were boys and twenty eight were girls under the age of sixteen. When synthetic Rayon was introduced the decline for silk declined and the factory went out of business, laying off all of its mostly female workforce.

The mill sat vacant until it was purchased to consolidate three factories in the 1930s. It mainly produced girls' and ladies' dresses. One of the economic tentpoles of the region, this factory continued to operate with a clothing outlet on the bottom floor until the early 1990s, when cheaper garment manufacturing in the south drove it out of business. View my website gallery here. As of July, 2015 over $4,000 has been generated through the workshops for the site. Unfortunately, no further workshops will be offered at this location in the future.

For more details, click here.

Art of the Slate Photography Workshop

Location: 2 slate quarries near Bethlehem, PA
Date/Time: March 22, 2014 10:00 AM - 2:30 PM
Cost: $115/ea.

The Site: In this workshop, participants will visit two of the slate company properties nestled beneath the Blue Mountain in the Slate Belt of Pennsylvania. The first site is a quarry dating back to 1875. Known as "American Bangor" it produced slate that was compared to the esteemed slate of Bangor, Wales, UK, and produced what some called the best slate in the region. It operated intermittently until 1914 when it was shut down for a period of decades, then revived twice, having run as recently as a decade ago. Today, as the quarry is again held in reserve, awaiting its next call to duty. Visitors will be able to explore a trio of hoist houses and walk paths lined with trucks, excavators, and other machinery slowly being engulfed in foliage.

The second stop of the day will be the "landing," mills, and back lot of a working quarry. Being a Saturday, the machinery will be quiet and the areas safe to shoot. The "landing" is where slate blocks weighing 5 tons touch down after an aerial cableway lifts them from the seemingly bottomless pit (currently 350 feet below the surface, which is deeper than can be seen from the "landing"). The mills are where the slate is sawed and split into tiles, stair treads, blackboards, and roofing slates. Known as a place where "trucks go to die," the property features a collection of vehicles that are either in use, providing parts, or being retained for their historic character. There are even a couple of movie stars - a Mack B model and a derelict forklift were used as props in the movie Transformers II when it filmed in Bethlehem, PA, in 2008.

From landscapes to macro, from grey slate, to red trucks, all amidst spring colors, this workshop will offer an enthralling look at the natural and mechanical artistry that was, and still is, the slate industry. As of July, 2015 over $1,000 has been generated through the workshops for the site. Unfortunately, no further workshops will be offered at this location in the future.

For more details, click here.

Scotland School for Veterans' Children Photo Workshop

Location: Scotland School for Veterans' Children, Scotland PA
Date/Time: August 24, 2013 10:30 AM - 3:00 PM
Cost: $135/ea.

The Site: According to a state website, "Founded in 1895, SSVC is the only residential school in the nation specifically designed and accredited to educate and care for the children of Pennsylvania military service veterans. Over 10,000 graduates have gone on to distinguish themselves in a wide variety of careers and endeavors. The school curriculum includes a JROTC program, strong academics, caring homelife program, accomplished sports teams, and alumni and parent support."

State budget cuts closed the 185-acre campus in 2009, leaving 70 buildings that include a school, library, gym, pool, theater, rec hall, housing, a chapel, machine shops, and a stunning administration building to the same fate as many other large closed state facilities: slow deterioration. As of 2013, many of the buildings were in pristine condition, but several were showing signs of deterioration.

Unlike many such stories though, this one has a happy ending: in 2013 the Winebrenner Theological Seminary finalized a $1.8 million dollar deal to purchase and rehabilitate the campus. Work is already underway to return buildings to use, and the Seminary is planning a multipurpose restoration that will include senior care facilities, classrooms, and partnerships with other schools and agencies.

Attendees of the workshop will have access to multiple campus buildings including the chapel, administration building, rec hall, cafeteria, gym, pool, and perhaps a few others as well. The campus itself is spectacular, and the buildings offer a nice mixture of very well kept spaces that are full of remnants of the school's glory days and others that have decayed somewhat. As the buildings are being returned to use by the Winebrenner Theological Seminary it is unclear if there will be future workshops at this site. Minimum attendance is 15 for event to be held. To see the full gallery of images from this site, click here.

For more details click here.

Bureau Bros. Bonanza - SOLD OUT

Location: Brass/bronze foundry, Philadelphia PA
Date/Time: June 22, 2013 10:30 AM - 3:30 PM
Cost: $55/ea.

The Event: This photo open house takes place at a medium sized, 20,000 square foot foundry building in Philadelphia. We are working on finding more history about the building itself but know at this point it was a brass/bronze foundry. Many of the wheels, pulleys, etc. for the belt driven systems still remain, and currently the site is being used to store dozens of old pianos (and other miscellany) in varying states of decay. The site will be restored to use in the very near future so this is the last chance to see it in its present condition!

You are free to show up whenever you like during the time listed, take as long as you like to tour/photograph it during the open house period, socialize with other guests/photographers, and ask Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America any questions you might have about how to improve your photographs while you are there. Legendary Philadelphia Blues musician Shakey Lyman will be playing, representatives from the National Museum of Industrial History and Preservation PA will be on hand, and every attendee will get a limited edition archival 5x7 print.

In addition, when you are finished at the site you can get beer and burgers at Philadelphia Salvage Company's awesome store 3.5 miles away. Philadelphia Salvage has been kind enough to allow this event in their new foundry building.

So it's a mixer, a cookout, a tour/workshop all in one, taking place in a great industrial building full of neat stuff and in one of the premier shops for artifacts saved from abandoned sites in the Philly area. What more could you ask for?

To see more about this event click here. SOLD OUT.