We recently embarked on a roadtrip across Scotland, focused on abandoned asylums and other hospitals. We photographed a total of eight, six of those being former asylums. The variations and similarities in their architecture was most interesting, with changes to asylum design being apparent. This varied from the streamlined design of the Georgian Royal Murray Hospital near Perth and the more refined sprawling designs of the mid-Victorian Stratheden and Rosslynlee hospitals, through to the towering Gothic late-Victorian designs of Hartwood and Gartloch hospitals, and finally into the dispersed Bangor Village hospital comprising smaller spread out buildings.
Six different Scottish aslyums
As well as taking plenty of regular digital photographs and video, I also wanted to use this as an opportunity to produce a photo set. Being an occasional user of 35mm film, I was inspired to get at least one photograph of every place we visited on black and white film. I used Ilford XP2 due to its convenience – it can be developed in shops regularly with colour film processing. I tried to shoot the photos at f/8 to provide a nice sharp image and to be a bit more forgiving on the camera’s dated autofocus. However, in lower light situations indoors or at dusk, I would either use a tripod or widen the aperture to f/5.6.
Liam shooting the Canon EOS 300 35mm camera with 20-35mm EF Lens
I ran the images through Lightroom to sharpen them slightly and bring out the dynamic range and detail in the sky. It’s surprising how well film can be tweaked in post. I also corrected any perspective distortion by straightening the vertical lines and correcting any curves created by the old-school wide angle lens. I wanted these photographs to adhere to the conventions of proper architectural photography as historical photographs of such places would have done, and so I had to shoot the photos either portrait to fit taller structures in the frame to avoid pointing the camera up at them, or leave enough sky in for the vertical perspective to be tilted afterwards whilst editing.
I recently found out about the incredible photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher thanks to a local photographer. The pair travelled Europe photographing industrial heritage for many years with a large format camera. If you Google them you will see the inspiration. One of the things they have done is present their photograph sets in collages together which works well for comparing the forms of buildings like these, so I used Photoshop to create the collages, being sure to keep the images’ full resolution by not shrinking them. This means that if you zoom into the collages, the photos are still full size and nice and detailed (and probably why they take a while to load).
Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Glasgow
We didn’t just explore abandoned hospitals on our road trip however. Another place we visited was the fabled St. Peters Seminary – a priests’ training school built in the 1960s which swiftly became abandoned. Despite its decline, it is a listed building and cannot be demolished, so sits as a bizarrely modern ruin. I feel like the use of black and white film and the correct perspectives in these photos is a nod to the architectural photographs taken of this place when it was built in the 60s. This building may have failed but its brutalist modernist design is considered an architectural world treasure to some. I decided to include it as well despite being the odd one out.