A meditative visual exploration of the historic Tennessee State Prison, built in 1898 and closed in 1992 due to inhumane conditions.
I have 20 years of professional creative work media production, music production, fine art photography, documentary film, new media, technology, and marketing as a Creative Director. Through the years I have developed my creative voice and style – and learned how to work with others to manifest ideas and get stories told. I attended CUNY Hunter College and the City College of New York in New York City for media studies, cultural studies, art history and writing – for fun.
My independent projects are immersed often in abandoned, forgotten places, and endangered historic properties. I see endless potential to use drones for artistic and commercial projects that expand perceptions – and for social good. Being a longtime music artist and visual artist, makes for an ideal marriage of the visual with the sonic.
I constantly wonder – what Mark Rothko would do with a flying camera? – or Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Yves Klein, James Turrell, Georgia O’Keeffe, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Alfred Stieglitz, or Weegie? That consumes me as I explore with Those Drones.
I am a FAA Part 107 certified remote pilot. I founded Those Drones, LLC because I am FASCINATED with the medium and its possibilities. I live to make stuff.
Tennessee State Prison 1898-1992
On the Inside
The Tennessee State Prison is rich with history – a storied institution as many of the penitentiaries across the country built to be modeled after the “Auburn” system. The original design is what I wanted to capture as a filmmaker – not only the ornate, majestic Victorian architecture, but I also wanted to capture the feeling of the prison. The penitentiary concept was about reflection, solitude, and work – toward enlightenment to get beyond human flaws. This is why a visual narrative documentary style was used – it is more of a meditation than a true historical documentary. The purpose is to inspire others to value and appreciate the prison. I hope viewers will be motivated to research the history and learn more about this institution as a result of watching this film.
The title, On the Inside, is clearly based on the term that a correctional officer or inmate would use about being “inside” the walls of the prison. I thought it was an apt title in a deeper sense as well – since the prison was designed to affect change in people – from the inside out. During the course of filming I pondered the inmate experience. While walking the yard, I imagined inmates contemplating what their life had become. Their imaginations may have wandered to thoughts and dreams of freedom – getting beyond the walls. Those daydreams likely erased as they were pulled back to their reality of being incarcerated.
I shot this piece with all of this in mind. Drones are the perfect tool to not only explore behind the walls but to capture this feeling with immersive, transcendent views. The film was made from sunrise to sunset in one day – the spine of the piece is doing time. I wanted to make something unprecedented – views and perspectives that have never been seen by anyone before.
Critical to this piece was honoring all of the people who have been involved with the Tennessee State Prison. Administration, Correctional Officers and inmates have all passed through these doors. I wanted to make sure that I focused on the conflicted beauty of the complex, while also honoring those that passed away on these grounds.
I must note that this project would not have taken place except through a unique partnership with the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). This partnership allowed me to access the normally off-limits property. Without this partnership, the piece would not have been created.
Finally, I must also note that the historic Tennessee State Prison is not an abandoned property. The Tennessee Department of Correction still actively utilizes the grounds and due to the secure nature of their business, it is off limits to the public. This site is actively patrolled by officers and anyone caught trespassing will be prosecuted. Please enjoy the film but do not venture out to the property.
– Brian Siskind
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