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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“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)