Hidden Alcatraz: The Fortress Revealed

Overview

Alcatraz—infamous for its legendary inmates—is much more than its grim history. Hidden Alcatraz focuses on the current state of the island fortress, presenting a unique collection of nearly one hundred images taken over a four-year period by thirty-four photographers, including Steve Fritz, Deborah Roundtree, Robert Dawson, Alex Fradkin, Thom Sempere, and Michael Venera. As participants in workshops on “the Rock,” hosted by the National Park Service and Photo Alliance of San Francisco, these photographers were ...

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Overview

Alcatraz—infamous for its legendary inmates—is much more than its grim history. Hidden Alcatraz focuses on the current state of the island fortress, presenting a unique collection of nearly one hundred images taken over a four-year period by thirty-four photographers, including Steve Fritz, Deborah Roundtree, Robert Dawson, Alex Fradkin, Thom Sempere, and Michael Venera. As participants in workshops on “the Rock,” hosted by the National Park Service and Photo Alliance of San Francisco, these photographers were granted unprecedented access, even staying overnight in the main cellblock. The resulting pictures present diverse visions of beauty in decay. They highlight the eerie, almost supernatural mood of the former prison, bringing texture to its historical artifacts and architecture, and evoking the extreme isolation and despair of inmates whose only remaining traces are suggestions of blood spatters and scratches on the walls. Hidden Alcatraz includes a foreword by actor Peter Coyote, who was present during the 1971 occupation by members of the American
Indian Movement, and an introduction by John Martini, one of the island’s first park rangers and an expert on its history.

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Editorial Reviews

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Anyone who has wandered around the windy, echoing confines of San Francisco's Alcatraz Prison knows that, even in ruins, it encompasses a palpable history not easily described. The photographers who contributed to this striking pictorial obviously set out to capture those qualities; that odd convergence of macabre isolation and the beauty of decay. Editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly
"The Rock" is shrouded in mystery as well as fog, exacerbated by the fact that an accurate history remains elusive, as Martini outlines in this handsome book of photos. Coyote, involved in the Native American occupation of the island between 1969 and 1971, praises the "blend of subject and interpretation" inherent in these photos. Tourists navigate the "crumbling infrastructure," though few have had the access that the members of this PhotoAlliance project have. The project's blend of artistic vision, with contributors both amateur and distinguished, creates a diverse and dynamic perspective. Sempere and Fritz are disciples of the "documentary tradition," capturing desolate cells, haunting graffiti, and interiors flooded with natural light. Michel Venera's depiction is decidedly gothic, while Roundtree's patience and expertise yields ethereal beauty. Linda Hanson's ominous Bars, A Random Corridor, No Way Out; Even The Light Is Blocked resonates in both visual and narrative terms. Individual techniques and experiences on Alcatraz are integral to this cadaverous study, simultaneously supporting the art of photography and providing a new insight to this enigmatic American institution. Photos.
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San Francisco Chronicle - John King
“The Rock is the star of a thousand postcards, yet "Hidden Alcatraz" makes the scene stark and fresh.”
Sacramento Bee - Allen Pierleoni
“The next best thing to a tour of Alcatraz could be this startling photographic look at ‘the Fortress.’”
San Francisco Book Review - Phil Semler
“An amazing collection of 100 photographs.”
Photographer's Forum - Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler
“This collection presents a comprehensive view of the iconic island and contributes greatly to the visual representation of the myth.”
Library Journal
Although U.S. Penitentiary Alcatraz closed in 1963, the name still conjures Hollywood-fueled images of the ghostly, fog-shrouded island squatting in the wind-swept waters of San Francisco Bay and hardened cons behind barred widows plotting escape. Fine art photographer Fritz and creative director Roundtree present a gallery of roughly 100 frames recorded by 34 photographers over four years. The color and monochrome still-life images offer a photographic autopsy of the prison's rotting remains. Alcatraz is small—during its prime it housed 260 prisoners max—and the pix of cramped, cagelike cells and narrow hallways are studies in claustrophobia. Through the chipped paint, rusting metal, and crumbling cement, the despair, loneliness, and severity of life on "the Rock" remain woefully present. To complement the photos, the book sports an introduction offering a brief history of the island (its initial use as a 19th-century military fort and, later, as a stockade have been nearly forgotten), a foreword by actor Peter Coyote, and an afterword by photographer Thom Sempere. VERDICT Alcatraz continues to fascinate, and this collection beautifully captures its physical decay that at last matches its wretched soul. Recommended for photo and history buffs.—Mike Rogers, Library Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520260849
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 4/25/2011
  • Pages: 120
  • Sales rank: 1,454,620
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Fritz is a fine art photographer who has had numerous solo and group shows. Deborah Roundtree is creative director and principal of Roundtree Visuals, an art consulting firm. Her group and solo exhibitions include the London Museum of Science, the Sydney Opera House, and New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

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