Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Christopher Payne’s Asylum

via utne reader

“The state mental hospitals of the 19th and early 20th centuries—originally known as ‘lunatic asylums’—often operated within massive, majestic buildings, most of which are now abandoned or operating at a fraction of their former capacity. Christopher Payne spent several years meticulously photographing 70 of these architectural marvels, and his haunting images are collected in the beautiful new book Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, just out on MIT Press. Neurologist-writer Oliver Sacks, who worked for 25 years at Bronx State Hospital (now Bronx Psychiatric Center), pens the book’s introduction, a lively tour through the history of these asylums’ philosophies, inner workings, and patient populations as they shifted over the years.

Read the rest here. Visit Christopher Payne’s site here to see a slideshow of images, MIT Press page here.

Sauerkraut Vats, Danville State Hospital, PA  As a child, I remember passing the Selinsgrove State Colony for Epileptics— a rambling state hospital on the way to visit my grandmothers. A few of the residents at that facility would stand or sit on benches by the road and wave to the passing cars traveling by on Route 522 . In later years I discovered that the daughter of one of my maternal grandmother’s sisters was a resident at one of Pennsylvania’s hospitals caring for the mentally retarded.

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