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Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom First Edition Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393061451
ISBN-10: 0393061450
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  • Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Over the course of five years, photographer Wilkes has captured the dark underbelly of Ellis Island-the south side-where immigrants who failed health inspections were brought to be held and evaluated. Those that convalesced were given passage, while those deemed too ill or contagious were left to perish in confinement just a solitary, tantalizing mile away from their hoped-for new beginning in New York City. Obsolete for over half a century, the facilities on the south side have been left to decay, and Wilkes's camera catches crumbling corridor walls, chipped and faded paint, and heavily fortified containment cells that have become brittle with age and overrun by aggressive vegetation. In the artist's words, the architecture "was 50 percent the work of man, 50 percent the triumph of nature." Wilkes' perspective evokes the hopeless limbo of the facility's residents, capturing the view from the inside looking outward: through the steel grates of a detention cage; through windows of shattered glass; at the Statue of Liberty, a monolithic paradox for those trapped beneath it. Quotations from immigrants, peppered throughout, add context and gravitas to the stark imagery: "Nobody said a word to me for twenty-three days." In an appendix-like "Image Directory," Wilkes gives a short, insightful description of each photo. Historical in both scope and timing, Wilkes's book has been released just as Ellis Island's south side is being renovated, largely thanks to Wilkes's attention; soon the haunted desolation captured in these photographs will vanish forever.
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Review

“Wilkes takes us on a journey through our collective past.” (Former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley)

“The most unusual, thoughtful and stirring collection of images I have seen in years.” (Lucy Davies - The Daily Telegraph)

“If it is possible to photograph emotion housed in spaces, Wilkes has done it, creating an empathetic portrait.” (Library Journal)

“His vivid and otherworldly photographs of the crumbling corridors and rooms, taken over five years, make up this remarkable book.” (Rebecca Robertson - ArtNews)

“A sleeper choice for anyone who thinks a picture is worth a thousand words.” (Ellen Heltzel - Good Housekeeping)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 152 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393061450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393061451
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 0.9 x 13.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Stephen Wilkes is a wonderful photographer and he makes the gritty details of a run down part of Ellis Island into a moving, dramatic and beautiful experience. It is powerful and also haunting and compelling you to walk in his foot steps. The images are technically exquisite. It is an inspiration to see the routes of our ancestors.

A great book to own.

David Kalman
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Format: Hardcover
This book brings to light an unusual reflection: pictures taken at a historical site which does not look at all like this any more.

The photos in this book have a haunting quality because of the disrepair of the isolation hospital on the "South Side" of Ellis Island. The dishevelment of the facility has a haunting, poetic quality as captured by Stephen Wilkes here.

We learn, though, that the site looks nothing like this any more. The Ellis Island foundation has enough money now to restore this facility to its former state, as it existed long before this level of deterioration advanced as far as shown in the book.

Meaning that this photographic record is all that survives.

It calls to question the notion of historic preservation. We now have the means to make something old look new - or as it did when it was first built. Does this mean that, eventually, this awful hospital will become a Disney World version of itself?

It's a tough ethical call, for sure. At least, though, I'm so grateful to Wilkes for creating and sharing this rare record with us all.
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Format: Hardcover
I Love this book, the pictures are beautiful, the design and layout make the pictures and quotes very moving. As a photographer I admire the quality of the work, and the bright vivid prints. I love that most of the images are full pages, sometimes spread across two pages, with small text labeling the room, or part of the property. There are no frames, page designs, or paragraphs to take away from the imagery. For more information and details the photographer includes a section of thumbnails with descriptions, stories about the room, or the shooting conditions, or even bitd of history. The thumbnails and text are at the back of the book with an arial shot and map showing the layout of the buildings. It really helps to peice together the history of Ellis Island. The quotes including add to the emotion behind the images, and I like that they were on parchment paper, so that you can see the pictures behind it. The books are being enjoyed by me and my mother, who is very interested in the hostory of Ellis Island, while I enjoy it for the photography. Great book to own, everyone should have a copy.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an artist, I purchased this after my artist friend showed it to me, to use as a guide for selecting particular colors and/or color combinations in abstract paintings. It is amazing that the light in the photos has been captured as it truly was--not altered or enhanced with SW to convey a particular mood. Everyone I have showed this to has been propelled to stop and look through every image in the book--it draws you in as you flip through the pages. The colors portray emotion. Content is one of a kind. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful photography book. I loved looking at the photographs. The images convey many emotions - both past and present. A must have for anyone whose ancestors came through Ellis Island.
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Format: Hardcover
THIS IS THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK I HAVE EVER SEEN. THE PHOTOS AND THE COLORS ARE SO EXTRAORDINARY. THIS BOOK WILL BE MY HOLIDAY GIFT I SEND OUT FOR 2006.
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Format: Hardcover
For five years author Stephen Wilkes explored and photographed the hospital complex which made up the south side of Ellis Island: an area neglected for nearly fifty years. His photos, presented in full-page, oversized and striking displays, are accompanied by overlay pages of impressions that make for a truly striking gathering. While ELLIS ISLAND is a pick for any collection strong in immigration history, it's reviewed here for its hard-hitting impact in the world of cultural photography, as well: not only college-level collections strong in immigration images but general-interest libraries and art libraries specializing in contemporary photography must have it.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The photographer has really captured the feel of Ellis Island. A visit to the island is a must for people visiting New York. Whether this was the first stop for your ancestors on their arrival to the new world, or they came through other ports of entry, I think the general experiences were the same. All the feelings of expectation, fear, joy or the disappointment of making such a long journey only to be detained or turned back while in sight of the "promised land" are tangible in Stephen Wilkes' images.
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