Ian Ference

August 24, 2008

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The scariest part of going to Hart Island,

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was just trying to get there.

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We left early in the morning,

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as the sun was coming up,

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and pulled the boat up into a patch of trees.

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We walked through the brush,

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over buldozed sections of earth,

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past freshly dug graves,

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and overgrown streets.

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Ian wanted to prepare to shoot pictures as soon as it was light.

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I was telling a friend about Hart Island the night before, about how it has been a potter’s field for over a hundred years.

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“Do you think they keep records of all the people they bury there?” she asked.

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“I’m sure they do.” I said.

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Room after room of rotting paper.

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Maybe they already transferred all this stuff to microfiche.

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The sun was just coming up,

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and I left Ian to walk through the woods.

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I was careful to steer clear of the clipped lawns. Rikers Island inmates come out here during the week to tend the grounds and bury the dead.

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Most of the old structures on the island are falling into ruin.

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Ian said that this end of the island will most likely be leveled within a year.

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They need room for more graves.

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In many ways it reminded me of North Brother Island,

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except for the graves.

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I caught up with Ian in a large building in the middle of the Island.

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“This used to be a woman’s insane asylum,” he said. “They were employed making shoes.”

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“You would have to be crazy to make shoes like this.” I thought.

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A brochure on the floor advertised a rehab center that used to be here in the 1970’s.

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“The love here is so real and so strong it just hits you.” said the brochure.

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“Once we learn to care about ourselves, everything begins to come together.”

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That is basically true.

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We took a break for lunch. It was about 9am.

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I was getting worried about getting off the island.

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It was daylight now, and fishing boats began appearing close to shore.

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Anyone who saw us would know we were not supposed to be on the island.

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I was urging to Ian to pack up and head back to the boat.

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But we kept finding more things to photograph,

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like piles of coffins and tyvek suits.

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Ian said that when a family member comes to claim a body after burial,

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the prisoners find it and give it back.

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“Lets get out of here,” I said.

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We headed back to the boat,

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and paddled away from the island.

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For the first time that morning, I took a whole deep breath.

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Take a look at Ian’s pictures of Hart Island here.

-Marie Lorenz

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