Holyoke, Or the Workshop that Wasn’t… Yet.


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Victory Theater – Holyoke, Mass.

Ron and I signed up for a fantastic sounding workshop hosted by Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America. Despite my camera woes of the previous weeks I was determined to make the most of this workshop so I rented a camera from LensProToGo. (I highly recommend them if you need equipment or want to play with something new.) We got up way to damn early on a Sunday and hauled our asses out to Western Massachusetts, about an hour and a half away. After much fretting over equipment, not getting enough sleep, what to wear, how to get there, and frantically looking for a McDonald’s or similar establishment so I could empty my itsy-bitsy bladder, we arrived at our destination, The Victory Theater in Holyoke.

We seemed to be the first to arrive. We parked the car and waited for a little bit. then it occurred to me to double check the confirmation email to verify that we had the right location. We both whip out our phones (thank the gods for smartphones) and realized that we got our dates wrong and were a there week early for the workshop. After some hysterical laughter and tears of frustration we decided to make the most of it and get our moneys worth out of the rental camera. We walked around the rather sketchy neighborhood to get the lay of the land and see what there was to see.

As it turns out, there isn’t much to see, or depending on your view of things, LOTS to see. Holyoke was once a thriving industrial community and now it’s just sad. The drizzle and fog only enhanced the air of desperation about the area. If you like abandoned buildings and desolate urban landscapes, Holyoke is a goldmine. Me? I’m a sucker for bleak and dreary places and thought it was a photographers dream location. If I were to film a horror movie or post apocalyptic sci-fi drama, this would be a great place to do it.

I will say that Holyoke is ripe for a revival. It is close enough to Northampton and UMass Amherst to be a great place for artists to convert abandoned factories into artist studios. There is quite a lot of potential here and the fact that the theater we were here to photograph is going to be restored is a good start in reviving this area. In fact, the workshop we signed up for is part of the fundraising efforts towards the restoration.

If you would like to see more photos from our impromptu walk around the neighborhood surround the Victory Theater, click HERE. I have the annoying tendency to edit photos in the order I took them, as well as write in the order things happened so stay tuned for images from the ACTUAL workshop. I am catching up and will post them soon. It just so happens that I have shot more in the last two weeks than I have in the last year so bear with me. Thanks for  your patience!

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