miller bay

The Miller Bay Hospital barely saw any patients. And this is a good thing, I’m thinking as I poke around for the umpteenth time.

It was built in anticipation of warfare… this rainy forested corner of Canada was considered a possible point of attack for the Japanese during WWII.  But the attack never came, so the hospital, and the barracks and observation posts built at the same time never saw that warfare, and now they grow moss in the rainforest instead.

But then the God of War invented Paintball!  And warfare arrived at last in Miller Bay, usually on Sundays.

Where once was the parking lot now are parked, more or less permanently, trailer wreckage and palettes and makeshift platforms and such.  The whole place has a splattered feeling to it… the foliage does this job in any season, even in our mucky winters.

There are levels and layer, and a lake with an island and a creepy bridge.  A barbeque area, with bits of hospital strewn about everywhere, bed stands barricades, spots for sniping, too!  And there scattered about like radioactive droppings are paint balls, begging to be crushed underfoot.

I only now recognize the irony of it… which is odd considering I’ve gone there many times in the past few years to take photos.  I suppose it’s as good a second life as a crumbling old hospital can expect.

The little sociologist in me is interested in these re-appropriated cultural spaces where nature and humans swarm about and get splattered with one another.  I’d very much like to try shooting during a paintball session… as profoundly stupid an idea as that might sound like for a photographer.  But why not?

I can’t deny the allure of a creepy abandoned institution of any kind, but I’ve found that such imagery can easily go overboard.  So I try to look for the calm and peace in these scenes, something to offset the cliché of mayhem and ruin.  It’s not easy.  Try composing a peaceful and serene still life whilst standing in a kill zone… a disconcerting endeavour if you think on it too much.

Less thinking, more shooting, I guess.  Cameras, I mean.  Click, click.  I mean no harm.

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4 comments

  1. Jan

    Hi Mike,

    Your photos are always sumptuous and deep, and your blog is usually thought-provoking.

    My Dad was a patient in Miller Bay hospital just before it closed in the late 60s or early 70s. I don`t know much about the hospital`s history or its number of patients, but I do remember visiting as a teenager and I always remember a specific nurse that worked there; she was so kind to the patients.

    Dr. Schinbein regularly visited patients there. His visits, as well as the fact that my Dad was a veteran, makes me wonder if it wasn`t some sort of veterans` hospital.

    Memories.

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