The Sockanosset Collection
“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” — Susan Sontag
With their towering Gothic-style architecture and somber history, few buildings in Rhode Island contained as much mystery as the ominous stone cottages of the Sockanosset School for Boys. Established in the late 1800s, the 30-acre property belonged to a state farm, which served for nearly a century as the site of a training school for Rhode Island's destitute and delinquent boys. In 1979, due to overcrowding and underfunding, the boys were moved and the buildings condemned.
Fresh out of photography school and delighted to have stumbled upon such a striking subject, as a 20-year old, I would often roam the abandoned property for hours, hoping to not arouse suspicion for trespassing. With the exception of two images in this collection, all photographs were shot with black and white 120 medium format film, between 2004 and 2006.
In the mid-90’s, the property was purchased by an independent developer, and because the cottages were not listed on any register of historic places, three of its six original stone cottages were razed. In 2004, construction began on the commercial and residential development currently known as Chapel View. Today, over 16 years later, amidst the noise of busy shops and restaurants, the remaining traces of Sockanosset’s austere history are all but erased. All that remains are the refurbished skeletons of three cottages and a stone chapel, the scattered oral histories, and the photographs.