Jean Schnell

Jean Schnell –

I tend to see in abstraction — squares and rectangles, lines, negative space, and color. For this reason, architectural photography appeals to me. So when the opportunity arose to photograph in the old Marine Hospital, I jumped at it.

The building itself is special: It was built in 1895, and used as a state-of-the-art 30-bed hospital in World Wars I and II. After it was decommissioned as a hospital, the St. Pierre family used the building as a summer camp from the 1950s to 2006. In 2011, it was purchased by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, to be its future home.

When I first walked into the Marine Hospital, my heart dropped to my knees. I had no idea how I would ever get a good photograph. The building is crumbling, dirty, and decrepit, with cracked and peeling walls, old boats in the corridors, and wires hanging down from the walls and ceilings. As I worked, however, I was drawn into the elegant simplicity of the architecture, the beautiful light streaming in the windows, and the wonderful views of the harbor from within this forgotten space. There were stories in the cracks, the leftover hospital table, the x-ray room, and the occasional signs that children had enjoyed summer days there.

My day of shooting and the days spent editing at my computer were rewarding and fulfilling. It has been a joy to show the beauty of this diamond in the rough, to tell the story of the old Marine Hospital before it begins a new life.

Perhaps I feel a kinship with this building. I am at a time of life when the major change of retirement has meant renewal. I came to photography late in life. I spent my working years as a nurse, health coach, and single mother of two. In 2005, when my kids went to college, I began from scratch, taking basic classes in photography, and went on from there. Since then, I have loved every second of my photographic journey.

Single Room II

Single Room II

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