A picture is worth a thousand words throughout, and the images speak for themselves, with captions detailing only subject, hospital, and location. Each collection of photos is prefaced with a sparse introduction. Images in color and black and white are loosely arranged by function, sweeping from architecture to living quarters to recreational spaces to patient and institutional upkeep, and concluding with cemeteries and crematoriums.
In addition to scanned memorabilia such as postcards, the majority of book is comprised of stunningly composed interior and exterior images from at least buildings, carefully lit to evoke mood. A lonely red office chair sits and waits at a window in patient ward where red brick is showing through the paint peeled restful aqua and cheery lemon yellow walls. An iron twin bedframe with a torn mattress looks more like a jail cell than a bedroom.
Multicolored toothbrushes with yellowed bristles and a half-squeezed tube of toothpaste have a sense of interruption and flight. Shelves of leather suitcases and trunks in the Bolivar TN State attic indicate their owners never left. Among the most notable photos are a starkly illuminated surgical room, a collection of straitjackets, and Medford MA State in autumn, surrounded by skeletal trees, wisps of leaves, and grass intruding on cement walkways.
Payne successfully transforms the mundane items, like stacks of chairs in a hallway, and discarded athletic shoes in piles on the gymnasium floor, are into provocative subjects, inviting the viewer to contemplate not just their context, but the lives of the people who walked the halls, used the objects, and found sanctuary in these places. The photographs terminate on a powerful note: I still shiver when I drive by it on Rte Recommended for larger collections.
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View all 3 comments. Aug 02, Andrea Mullarkey rated it it was amazing Shelves: I was gobsmacked by this book! It is a form of photojournalism that tells of the majesty of asylums: As well it tells the story of their decline and decay: The pictures themselves are stunning and I was gobsmacked by this book!
The pictures themselves are stunning and the story they paint is equally moving. Coupled with an introductory essay by Oliver Sacks who clearly loves these facilities and what they represent for our society, the result is a marvelous book. Oct 13, Trin rated it it was amazing Shelves: Beautiful and eerie collection of photographs of mostly abandoned state mental hospitals.
There are two informative essays by the photographer, Christopher Payne, and one by neurologist and author Oliver Sacks , but in many ways the images speak for themselves. Payne highlights the grand, imposing edifices of these decaying institutions, their grandeur making it possible to understand how a mental asylum was once considered a great coup for a community.
The fact that the noble ideals with which these places were built disintegrated over time manifests itself with a stunning literalness in swirls of peeling paint, moldering ceilings, and leaf-strewn breezeways. Similarly, the people society has left behind are evoked with the simple image of an abandoned rack of multicolored patient toothbrushes.
Aspects of this book are creepy—it brought to mind several horror movies notably Session 9 that I instantly wanted to rewatch once I finished reading. In his closing essay, Payne talks about witnessing the destruction of Danvers State Hospital in Massachusetts, the exterior of which was a familiar sight throughout his childhood. Oct 15, Debra added it Shelves: Pictures paint a thousand words! The photographs in this book are skillfully rendered and carefully chosen.
This is a large table-top book. Don't expect photos of abuse and neglect, but some interesting history; architecture mostly, but also the evolution of asylums, the sad results of the loss of the original caring ideals, and amazing pictures of majestic buildings, and haunting interiors. Be sure to read the afterword, as well as the introduction. I learned things I never knew. View all 4 comments. Jun 18, Jamie rated it it was ok. Not what I was expecting. Thought this would have been perhaps photos of things that we we're not allowed to normally see or of black and white photos of people who resided there -rather, it was a coffee table style book with pictures of the outside of run down buildings and crumbling insides.
Amazing photographs, just not what the synopsis implied. Oct 05, Arminzerella rated it really liked it Shelves: The age of the state mental hospital has come and gone.
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Many of these enormous edifices have already been razed to make way for developers, and the remaining structures are boarded up, or only make use of portions of their once expansive rooms and grounds — a very different picture from their heyday. In the s there were 33, mental patients on Long Island alone. Once upon a time, these institutions were communities unto themselves — many of them self-sufficient. The patients raised their own food and livestock, did their own laundry, made their own clothes, cooked their own meals, constructed their own buildings, and performed other work that gave their lives structure and meaning.
Thousands of others were released into the streets as the institutions that had once housed them closed down due to budget cuts and the changing beliefs within the medical community.
I was struck by how beautiful they were, how carefully planned and constructed. I had expected them to be scary, with some kind of evidence of scarring, or a reflection of the mental state of their patients. But, on the whole, they evoked a sense of peace, with their large windows that let in light, the manicured grounds surrounding them, the common areas where patients could come together dining halls, reading areas, bowling alleys, theaters.
The mental hospital campuses seemed like college campuses, the patient housing like dormitories. The piles of records, seat cushions, etc. Patients and staff left in a hurry and no one cared about what was left behind. The disintegration was both sad and beautiful. Reading this left me with more questions than answers: What was the world like back when these institutions were in vogue? And if most of them were, what caused their illnesses? Was there something about society, about the times that broke them? How does that number compare with our population of the mentally ill today?
What happened to all of those people when they were released? How could all of these buildings have been abandoned? I had no idea I would be so interested in this topic when I first picked up this book. I highly recommend it, though, as food for the imagination if nothing else. This is a glimpse into a world so many of us never experienced or knew. Oct 30, Ashley rated it liked it Shelves: Not what I was expecting! This is like a coffee table book - oversized and mostly pictures.
I love Oliver Sacks and he did a great intro. I had no idea that insane asylums later referred to as state mental hospitals were initially symbols of pride for a community that showed their forward-thinkingness. As time advanced, however, things went downhill leaving us with the common negative stereotypes we have today. The pictures were good - some sad, some surprising bowling alleys and patient-run T Not what I was expecting!
The pictures were good - some sad, some surprising bowling alleys and patient-run TV stations , and some creepy.
Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals by Christopher Payne
Most of the hospitals are abandoned now, but some are still being used, albeit it only small portions. One thing that was surprising was the sheer size of these buildings - many were built in the Kirkbride style, named after a well-respected mental hospital administrator. The style consists of a central administration building flanked symmetrically with each new wing stepped back from the previous, creating a V shape with the patient housing and treatment wings.
The most well-adjusted patients lived closest to the admin center where the staff also lived , with the most severe cases housed in the outer-most wings. As to the garagntuan size of these buildings, Greystone Park State Hospital in NJ that opened in supposedly had the largest continuous foundation in the US and was surpassed only by the Pentagon some 77 years later. In later years, the Cottage Plan became more popular and consists of clusters of separate buildings, similar to a college campus. Overall, a quick interesting read for anyone interested in the early days of psychology.
Aug 31, Jonathan McGaha rated it really liked it. A book of photography and essay, it excels at both. The essay, by Oliver Sacks, is a great survey of the intent, expansion, idealism and largely inevitable failure of mental asylums as a model for treatment. Sacks walks us through the theory: He also tells how states, eager to no lon A book of photography and essay, it excels at both.
He also tells how states, eager to no longer bear the expense, treated drugs as miracle cures and created a homelessness problem which often ended up in many former patients becoming prison inmates Sometimes housed in the remodeled and repurposed asylum-turned-prison from which they'd been ejected. The photography is magnificent, each image is evocative and thought-provoking. These photographs take your imagination in hand and bring about senses of sadness, wistfulness and curiosity in turn.
They capture well the lofty original intents of some of these facilities, and the abandonment and decay which pervades these images demonstrates handily how easily ideals and humanitarian goals can be despoiled, weakened, equivocated and, finally, abandoned altogether. Oct 19, Becky Loader rated it really liked it. Payne's photographs will trigger so many thoughts and emotions. The prologue and beginning essay explain the institution of mental health treatment in the 19th and early 20th century.
I was fascinated by the explanation of how the original meaning of "asylum" to mean a refuge was behind the use of the term to describe mental treatment facilities. The use of "moral treatment" in dealing with the mentally ill was unique to the time and required a certain type of physical environment. The state mental hospitals that were created to facilitate such treatment were a world unto themselves.
Payne has made an extensive study of the historic photographs from the hospitals. He has also traveled extensively to photograph the ruins of the facilities that have been abandoned. I was alternately chilled, appalled, amazed, and awe-struck. These are truly evocative photographs. What was the effect of the state mental hospital system? Many thoughts come to mind after reading this book. The creation of drugs to treat mental illness brought about an immense change in treatment, but not in time for many people. Oh, and don't forget Walter Freeman shudder.
A very thought provoking book. May 22, Mike rated it really liked it. Overall, as splendid as one could wish for in a single-volume book of photography of abandoned mental hospitals. The Internet showcases a variety of sites devoted to explorations of such hospitals and "homes for the feeble-minded" as they were once known, and while some sites are just grainy photos of kids mucking about in an abandoned hospital, some sites are beyond amazing with photography able to rival the best professional efforts. So, to pick up a book with such photography when a wider spe Overall, as splendid as one could wish for in a single-volume book of photography of abandoned mental hospitals.
So, to pick up a book with such photography when a wider spectrum of the same is availible for free online feels a little strange. However, this book is very well-done and will bring you to sit down and page through it then and there, in the floor, in low light, where-ever. The effort is first-rate and to have an actual hardcopy document of this genre is very useful and necessary for historiography.
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Moreover, the focus here is American state-sponsored mental hospitals which were a breed unto themselves and still exist, albeit often now in very different manifestations. The insight this book thus offers is well worth investing in both in terms of money and time. Jun 17, Jane rated it it was amazing.
This book gives you a brief history of the evolution of state psychiatric institutions "insane asylums" and their original purpose to provide respite and care for people with mental illnesses. As I thumbed through the brilliant photos of the former asylums in their current state; however, I was overwhelmed by the sadness and helplessness that the institutions exude. A patient poem that was written on the wall of a basement in the Augusta State Hospital in Maine is particularly poignant - and p This book gives you a brief history of the evolution of state psychiatric institutions "insane asylums" and their original purpose to provide respite and care for people with mental illnesses.
A patient poem that was written on the wall of a basement in the Augusta State Hospital in Maine is particularly poignant - and puts words to this sense of isolation that the institutions create. Among these books, a great amount of knowledge there must be, but what good is knowledge where others carry the keys I wish that some of these people, who write the books and make the rules, could spend just a few years walking in our shoes. Mar 17, Heidi rated it liked it. Rather odd little coffee table book filled with photographs of abandoned mental hospitals.
The photographs were eerie and evocative, like any photographs of ghost towns or abandoned buildings. But I just kept thinking this was all such a waste. The asylums were enormous, some with a population larger than my home town.
Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals by Christopher Payne | New Humanist
Blackfoot's very own State Hospital South, since it's not abandoned, didn't make it into this book. And they had barns and fish hatcheries and their own power plants. But instea Rather odd little coffee table book filled with photographs of abandoned mental hospitals. But instead of using the buildings for anything a hospital? Dec 11, Carrie rated it it was amazing. This book had a vert short, but informative essay about the history of American asylums and with the amazing photos the book provides, I've come to realize how beautiful these buildings are and how important they were to the people who called them home.
They are not the places I always believed them to be. This book has let me see that asylums are not scary, they are actually quite sad and it is sad to think that their incredible history lays deteriorating and has been forgotten. It is a beautif This book had a vert short, but informative essay about the history of American asylums and with the amazing photos the book provides, I've come to realize how beautiful these buildings are and how important they were to the people who called them home. It is a beautiful tribute to them. Apr 04, Mary Whisner rated it liked it Shelves: When I checked this out of library, I wasn't expecting what it is: That's the thing about checking out ebooks.
When you check out a physical book, of course you know what you're holding in your hands. I didn't realize that this was a "coffee table book" until I saw that it could only be loaded on my iPad, not my Kindle. In any event, I did e When I checked this out of library, I wasn't expecting what it is: In any event, I did enjoy it.
The photos are striking, and the architectural and social history are very interesting. Feb 01, Nannette rated it it was amazing Shelves: Oliver Sacks wrote the forward on Asylum. He discusses his time working in an asylum and watching the changes that led to most asylums being closed. Christopher Payne has beautiful and heartbreaking photographs of asylums all over the country. The pictures conveyed an overwhelming sadness. With so many of these asylums, which are historic buildings, being torn down, Payne felt the need to document them as much as possible. I strongly recommend this book if you have any interest in the history of Oliver Sacks wrote the forward on Asylum.
I strongly recommend this book if you have any interest in the history of mental health in the United States. The text sections by Sacks and Payne are relatively short; the photographs comprise the majority of this book. Personally, I found myself drawn back to look at them multiple times. This will be a book that I purchase in print format. Oct 29, Stacy rated it it was ok Shelves: This book felt incomplete. I think I misunderstood the concept when I picked up the book, to be honest. Or, perhaps, pictures of the past that we won't see because they no longer exist.
I was expecting one of two things: What this book actually contains is pictures of closed state mental hospitals. No ghosts, but also This book felt incomplete. No ghosts, but also no comparisons of yesteryear against today.
For what it was, it was okay. For what I wanted it to be, it was a disappointment. Apr 21, Davina rated it really liked it Shelves: This was a really beautiful and unexpected volume of photographs. Given the cover image, I was expecting that Payne would be highlighting a sinister side of mental hospitals but in reality it was quite the opposite.
In the brief introduction and afterword, Oliver Sacks and Christopher Payne focus more on the civic pride felt by communities hosting grand mental hospitals and the sense of purpose that these vibrant hospitals afforded their patients. My only complaint is that the photographs left m This was a really beautiful and unexpected volume of photographs. My only complaint is that the photographs left me wanting to know so much more about the lives lived in those spaces.
Jan 15, Liz Clappin rated it it was amazing. Though a palpable current of sadness courses through Asylum , it bumps up against a bank of nostalgia, which stifles a keener commentary like so many sandbags. The choice of the eminent neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks as the essayist for this project is an apt one.
In , Sacks started working at the Bronx State Hospital, where he remained for 25 years, and his rightful position as an elder statesman of psychiatry is certainly not diminished here. Many images show seemingly endless corridors, the wards positioned at rigid and regular intervals. Though the rooms emit a healing light, such visibility is a trap, more beneficial to the efficient running of the institution than to the needs of an individual, for whom darkness may have offered sanctuary. One photograph shows a red chair, positioned to face a door. Such conjecture is rightly swept away by the unlikely juxtapositioning of a question mark and an arrow, graffitied on to the opposing wall.
Payne has a sapient and identifiably American eye for the ecology of signs. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, today more than 26 per cent of Americans over the age of 18 have a diagnosable mental disorder. Beyond the slick production and big-budget hype, is Prometheus the philosophical blockbuster that was promised? Fred Rowson wonders what to believe.
Michael Frayn offers Laurie Taylor his version of the human condition. We are supported by our members. Max Houghton on stunning new photographs of America's state asylums. These palatial buildings, designed by leading architects of the day to play a role in the rehabilitation of their inhabitants, once had a very visible place in the discourse of mental health.
They appeared to offer not only refuge but also a possible cure, by bestowing light on the incarcerated and by providing sustainable work programmes in their substantial grounds.
Related Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals (MIT Press)
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