Collection by Aaron Britt

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.

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.

The bright fiberglass shell chairs seen here in the autopsy theater of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington DC do...
Apparently Rockland State Hospital in Orangeburg, New York, had a bowling alley, replete with a battery of old shoes.
Things are rather overgrown at Norwich State Hospital in Preston, Connecticut.
This lone bathtub against a sea of tile was used by patients at Fairfield State Hospital in Newtown, Connecticut.
Crumbling paint serves as a proper backdrop to these boxes of files and state records at Spring Grove State Hospital in...
This photo shows the demolition of the Danvers State Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts.
Paint coming off the bottom of this staircase makes an abstract sculpture at Harlem Valley State Hospital in Wingdale,...
This was a typical ward at Kanakee State Hospital in Kanakee, Illinois.
The auditorium at Connecticut Valley State Hospital in Middletown was called Noble Hall.
Fabric hangs from the wall in this remodeled dormitory ward at the Harlem Valley State Hospital in Wingdale, New York.
The cemetery at the Connecticut Valley State Hospital in Middletown is like something out of Poe.
Unclaimed copper cremation urns line the walls of a storeroom in the Oregon State Hospital in Salem.
This space-age device is an electroencephalograph and was photographed at the Clarinda State Hospital in Clarinda, Iowa.
Patients stores their suitcases in the attic at Bolivar State Hospital in Bolivar, Tennessee.

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