The buildings of the former Traverse City State Hospital (Northern Michigan Asylum) are among the most photographed in the region. The stunning architecture captures the eye of the professional and amateur photographer alike. For Geoffrey Vail Brown, just moments after setting foot inside one of the buildings yet to be restored, he visualized a photographic project of capturing the ruins by contrasting the gradual decay against the beauty of the nude body.
I walked through a section of Building 50 a year ago and I was immediately struck by how the buildings architecture was such that it captured optimal lighting, said Brown. I saw an opportunity showcase the contrasts in the architecture by using nudes, so I have described this work as a celebration of the beauty within the ruin.
That celebration will come this Friday night as Brown will host an opening reception at the Inside Out Gallery, located in the Warehouse District of downtown Traverse City. The evening will feature 20 originals from Browns collection as well as a book launch of Beauty in Ruin The Asylum Nudes.
This is Browns first book of photography, which he self-published. His decision to publish a collection of photographs was driven in part by economics.
My thought with this project is that people are more likely to buy a book than go out and spend $800 to $1,200 on a print, said Brown. So essentially, I am testing that theory.
As for choosing nudes versus clothed models, Brown sees it this way:
Most of my photographic work is figurative. Had I used models with flowing dresses, that would have been a fashion shoot ,and that is something I do not do. What I wanted to accomplish was to show the contrasts, and with nudes I am able to do that. The bodies flow with the architecture and the lighting showcases the contrasts, whereas with clothed models, the focus would end up being on the fashion.