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Photographing the Mansfield Reformatory

The Mansfield Reformatory or Ohio Reformatory (as it is also called) is a great location for urban decay photography.  But from the outside, you could not tell this would be a good urban decay location.  The outside of the Mansfield Reformatory looks like a well-kept castle.  But inside, the prison it is another story.  It’s a gold mine for photographers looking for urban decay photos.  Visit my website to see more pictures of the Mansfield Reformatory.

Mansfield Reformatory Exterior

About the Mansfield Reformatory

The Ohio State Reformatory closed on December 31, 1990.  The Mansfield Reformatory was the filming location of several movies after it was closed.  Scenes from Shawshank Redemption, Air Force One, and Tango and Cash were filmed at the Mansfield Reformatory.  The prison is also suspected to be haunted and ghost hunts are also held at the reformatory. 
 
The prison is now owned by the Mansfield Reformatory Prison Preservation Society.  Self-Guided Walking Tours cost $9, $14 with audio.  The reformatory is closed during the winter season and opens again in May.
 
Group tours can also be scheduled.  Our photography group scheduled a group tour to photograph the prison.   Private group tours are only available during the week days.  In my opinion, a private tour is the way to go.  The Mansfield Reformatory gets a steady stream of traffic during the summer weekends.  A steady steam of visitors can make photography difficult especially when setting up a tripod in the narrow cell blocks.
 
Mansfield Reformatory East Cell Block

Photographing the Mansfield Reformatory

The majority of the reformatory is open to photograph.  Some of the floors on both the east and west cell blocks are open.  Some of the cells are also decorated like when the prison was active – others are still in a state of decay.
 
Other interesting areas of the Mansfield Reformatory to photograph are legal services, the library, hospital, and the warden’s office.  The dimly lit solitary confinement area is creepy but cool to photograph.
 
Cell #18 Mansfield Reformatory

Restrictions

There are several restrictions for photography at the reformatory.
Photographers have to sign an agreement that they will not sell the photographs.  They can be posted on websites, used in contests, etc. – but cannot be sold.
The Mansfield Reformatory is located next to a working prison.  Photographs cannot be taken of the working prison.  This includes photos from windows in the reformatory that are facing the working prison.
Tripods were allowed for our photography groups.  Tripods are necessary as many places in the reformatory are dimly lit.

Equipment

A variety of lenses including wide angle and macro lenses.
A tripod is a must due to low light conditions
Remote shutter release to reduce vibrations
 
 
Visit my photo destinations page for more great photography locations

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