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Asylum by Christopher Payne

I got an advanced proof of Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals by architect and photographer Christopher Payne  some time ago. But not until I really glimpsed and held the finished book did the power of his images, a six-year documentation of America's crumbling state mental institutions, come through.

The bright fiberglass shell chairs seen here in the autopsy theater of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington DC do little to brighten the grim scene.

From the detritus of harrowing lives to the physical decay of the buildings themselves, Payne gives us the state of things with the bark on. The state being largely neglectfull with the patients turned out onto the streets as policy shifted under President Reagan. Astoundingly beautiful work on a subject that rarely gets the attention. An essay by Oliver Sacks accompanies the photographs—visit this slideshow to see some of the images from the book.

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