On Saturday, November 8th ICE DC opened the doors of Franklin School located on 13th and K Street in NW Washington, DC. Over 300 photographers and photo enthusiasts took to their phones, tablets, DLSRs, Holgas and good old fashion film cameras to document the empty building, which has been a school, homeless shelter and site of the Occupy movement.
The massive brick building, designed by Adolf Cluss, was built in 1865 and in 1880 Alexander Graham Bell transmitted speech through beams of light from the roof to his lab 700 feet away creating the photophone, which is the precursor to modern-day fiber-optic technology. ICE DC invited the public to come and take photographs of the empty building before they transform the space into a Kunsthalle.
We arrived around 1pm for one of the last sessions in which we were allowed to roam throughout the entire 50,000 square foot building. Paint was peeling from the walls and bulletin notices hung by old push pins forgotten and frozen in time--reminders left to be forgotten. We made friends with other photographers and instagram lovers. We learned about the building structure from our friend's parents, whom she had brought along for the experience. I thought about other abandoned buildings I'd explored in Berlin and even though this required no shimming through a wire gate, no climbing up a narrow tower, no watching out for broken glass bottles from late-night raves that happened decades ago, I still felt that adrenaline rush that only comes from doing something you aren't supposed to do. Something that is (for reasons unbeknownst to you) not allowed, but that no one will ever know about unless you tell them.
I joked that everyone was taking photos of the same thing. Shortly after I shot the light coming in from the first room to the right, I saw a friend's post of the same exact thing on Instagram.
I posted while I framed, observed while I crouched down and took some photos of other people taking photos. There was very little chatter, but an energy was certainly felt. Like a collective agreement that an important task was at hand and time was ticking. We were kicked out right as we found the 'someone forgot to close the trap door' sign on the top floor. We did not sneak onto the roof or hide out in the basement. But, something tells me there will be time for that, in some other building, some other time, or at the opening of ICE DC when they display the winners of the photo contest from this very event.
The whole experience can be seen below in a tagboard that pulls in anything from Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Google+ and Vine.