Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals

Christopher Payne specializes in architectural photography and the large format documentation of America’s industrial heritage. Trained as an architect, he is fascinated by design, assembly, and the built form.  Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals (MIT Press, 2009)  was the result of a seven-year survey of America’s vast and largely shuttered state mental institutions. Accompanying Payne’s striking and powerful photographs is an essay by Oliver Sacks (who described his own experience working at a state mental hospital in his book Awakenings). 

“For every room that was frozen in time, there were dozens that were empty or decayed beyond recognition. Finding shots that looked as if the occupants had just left took a lot of patience and persistence, and much of my time was spent going through the buildings, checking every room and opening every door.” (Source)

His work has been featured in publications around the world and several times in special presentations by the New York Times Magazine.

Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals

“Most of the images in my book no longer exist.” (Source)

All images (c) Christopher Payne

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Still can't tell exactly my origins because of my Chinese eyes. I love romance. Cartoons and music. Cultartes. Hate fish roe. From the bottom of my heart.

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