by Christopher Payne

Asylum: Inside the closed world of state mental hospitals

My mom has been very into photography lately, especially urban architecture. She happened across this blog of a guy who explores abandoned buildings to photograph and sent me a link to check it out. I knew my husband’s friend also was interested in photographing unseen spaces so when I asked him about, he lead me to this other guy’s site, which really blew my mind because he had lots of pictures of spaces right where we used to live in Brooklyn-places I’ve often wondered about. Somewhere along the link clicking between these two sites, I found Christopher Payne and his book of photos of decaying state mental institutions. I was already ready to buy the book when I saw Oliver Sacks had written an essay for it, and knowing he was involved was just icing on the cake (I’ve enjoyed reading so many of his books). While these pictures are super errie, I also find them really beautiful and intriguing. The book is about half black and white and half color. I am really drawn to the color photography especially for the soft tones of pastel and sun-faded peeling paint colors. The photos feel peaceful, as if a long hard storm came through many years ago leaving a mess nobody ever cleaned up. It’s hard to imagine these spaces occupied, the machines being used, all those seat cushions on chairs. When I really think about the spaces history, it gives me the creeps, and when I don’t, I really enjoy these photos as art. Get a copy of this book here.

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