Monday, April 22, 2013

Hayes Prison Farm Photography Project

[To view all the photos from the project visit]

I've always been fascinated by buildings and their social history and enjoy documenting 20th century sites in order to have a visual record of them and share them on my blog and website. The State Government operated Hayes minimum security Prison farm began operating in the late 1930's with the Government closing the complex down late last year saying it was due to maintenance costs that would needed to have been carried out costing around $4.5 million.

What I had initially had planned to do was document the two level 1960s cell room buildings, but when getting to the site it was then that I got a real feel for the sheer vastness of the site, the property size was approximately 600 hectares with several farming and other outbuildings.  I wanted to capture the site and highlight the interconnectedness that the prison buildings had within the working prison landscape.

It was a crisp autumn morning that I headed off in the dark from Hobart.  The first light of the morning was beginning to paint the clouds hues of orange and pink before the sun made it’s first appearance over the distant hills. Upon entering the site there were a series of farm outbuildings, the morning light baking them in a golden hue, offset by the dry warm tones of the dry summer grass.

The 1960s two level complex is shaped like a clam-shell  with the administration buildings on one side and a two storey 70 cell complex on the other. As I entered the main complex the walls have been painted depicting the river Derwent and valley set amongst poplar trees, a scene still common to this region. Their leaves go a bright yellow in autumn as depicted on the painting. 
The cell rooms are small and there are still reminders of its days of operation with bed frames still in some of the rooms.Whilst the site had closed down before the summer, nature had already started to take over with weeds growing out of the asphalt that formed the basketball court, cobwebs took over the crevices of walls and doors and birds making their homes in the disused glass houses. 

There were many interesting out-buildings including a vegetable processing plant, glass houses, piggery, cow milking sheds, and quarry all providing traces of memories of the once operating prison farm. One of the most interesting buildings was the meeting area for families to visit that was set amongst deciduous trees with a series of 17 sitting booths that were painted depicting cartoon characters and landscape scenes.

To view my project of the former Hayes Prison farm visit


  1. Good on you for capturing the details before it all falls to bits.

    Is the land going to be sold off and reused? I am not sure if the top photo is early in the morning and therefore drained of colour, but the land looks a bit barren. Or suffering from drought perhaps.

  2. Hello Helen, thanks for your comments. The photograph you refer to was taken at first light. Many people are surprised at this kind of landscape in Tasmania, much of the State is like this in the summer months as the wet months are during the winter. The land and buildings are on the market now, expecting to fetch $2+ million.


About the project

Join me (Thomas Ryan Photography) on a photographic project documenting Tasmanian 20th Century Modernism from the 1930's to the 1980's. The entire project gallery of 1000+ images and counting can be viewed on my website under art projects. I have been undertaking this project for over a decade.

My portfolio of commercial and art projects can be seen on my website and I can be contacted here as well. All photographs are copyright of Thomas Ryan Photography. Unauthorised use is prohibited. Contact me for all enquires

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