Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Hidden Alcatraz: the fortress revealed" by Steve Fritz and Deborah Roundtree

Back in the late 80s, I was lucky enough to visit Alcatraz with my dad. I thought it would be a cool place to see, one with such a dark history. I was right - and I was wrong. It was interesting, but the whole time we were on "the Rock", I felt uncomfortable, almost edgy. I wanted to leave almost as soon as we arrived; something just felt off to me. I couldn't put a finger on what was causing my uneasiness; I just felt very, very creeped out.

Flash forward to this year and this book. It's a wonderful pictorial look at the facility today, which has decayed even further. Photographers were granted unprecedented overnight access, which means there are several photos taken after dark, giving the place an even more eerie appearance. The work is extraordinary, including color and black and white, and really does give the reader a feel for this most infamous of prisons.

Be sure to read the foreword by actor Peter Coyote; it gives an additional history lesson regarding Alcatraz that I was unaware of, namely that Native Americans claimed it for themselves for a good while back in the late 60s. Oddly enough, I also learned that most prisoners never felt threatened while doing their time; they felt "safe" in Alcatraz because their usual enemies couldn't reach them. That doesn't mean there wasn't blood shed, though, and perhaps that contributed to the "bad vibe" I felt so very long ago. In any case, it's a fascinating place with a rich history, one we certainly shouldn't forget.

No comments: