Asylum Hardcover – 9 Oct 2009
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""Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals" contains sadly beautiful photographs by Christopher Payne and a masterful essay by Oliver Sacks that reminds us that state hospitals were not always places of neglect and abuse but also of true asylum--of refuge from the stresses of life. The book presents us with a world of abandoned buildings, forgotten ashes, and derailed futures. It packs a powerful punch."--Elyn R. Saks, author of "The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness, " and Professor, USC Law School
""Asylum" is a haunting, beautiful book of lost dreams and lost minds. It is a reminder that society's ideals deteriorate more rapidly than the structures built to facilitate them. Asylums for the insane, which started with high intentions, usually ended in horror and neglect. Oliver Sacks has written a deeply moving elegy for the lives of those who lived, and often died at these asylums and Christopher Payne has captured the soul of the asylums themselves through his extraordinary photographs. I cannot imagine forgetting this book: it has evoked sadness, awe, and shame."--Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and author of "An Unquiet Mind"
"Astoundingly beautiful work on a subject that rarely gets the attention."-- Aaron Britt, "Dwell"
"Christopher Payne's "Asylum" photographs are sensitively rendered, beautifully wrought documents, expressing the dark histories of abandoned asylums across the United States. The cumulative force of these images describe in exacting detail the vanished worlds of these hospital settings, and hint at the lives lived within them. They are haunting and indelible images."--David Maisel, author and photographer, "Library of Dust"
"Beautifully researched, exquisitely photographed and expertly composed and edited...Extraordinary."-- "Frieze"
"Astoundingly beautiful work on a subject that rarely gets the attention." Aaron Britt Dwell
"Beautifully researched, exquisitely photographed and expertly composed and edited...Extraordinary." Frieze
"The book will appeal to historians or scholars of material culture as well as to the medical personnel, photography lovers, and citizens familiar with the lore and lure of asylums."-Jane Simonsen, "The Annals of Iowa"
."..Asylum is of enormous value, as a record of how such places looked in their final years. More than that, and despite its dismal subject matter, it makes for a remarkable and endlessly fascinating book, one that can be recommended with enthusiasm to both the architectural historian and the general reader." Times Literary Supplement
..".Asylum is of enormous value, as a record of how such places looked in their final years. More than that, and despite its dismal subject matter, it makes for a remarkable and endlessly fascinating book, one that can be recommended with enthusiasm to both the architectural historian and the general reader." Times Literary Supplement
The book will appeal to historians or scholars of material culture as well as to the medical personnel, photography lovers, and citizens familiar with the lore and lure of asylums.--Jane Simonsen ""The Annals of Iowa" "
Astoundingly beautiful work on a subject that rarely gets the attention.--Aaron Britt "Dwell "
About the Author
Christopher Payne is a photographer and practicing architect in New York City and the author of New York's Forgotten Substations: The Power Behind the Subway. The late Oliver Sacks was a neurologist and the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Awakenings, Musicophilia, and other books.
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Top Customer Reviews
It's primarily a photographic history, but the two introductory essays lead you into a hitherto closed world. And these hospitals were completely self-sufficient communities, far out of towns - and every aspect of life is shown.
The book is laid out as a chronology of the asylums; starting with contemporary pictures in their prime then a journey through time as nature slowly takes over, crumbling the buildings and reclaiming the land.
It's far more than just a history of the buildings, though - every page reminds you of the people who lived there, often put into asylums and never released. As you see the hospitals decline from their glory days of strength and wealth, you are constantly aware of the human lives lived within; many people entering in their prime years then slowly drifting into death and finally being reclaimed themselves.
Is it right that such beautiful buildings, living history, should be left to decay? My first instinct is no, but then maybe it is appropriate. However benevolent the regime, however badly these people truly needed "asylum" in it's real sense, that time has gone. Maybe it is fitting that the buildings fade away, long after the last residents left.
Beautiful. A stunning achievement - photography at it's best, when it can tell a whole story without a single word...
Excuse typos. Iblob. Mind of it's own.
The first real clue to this work is the introduction. Oliver Sacks spent over 25 years working in an asylum and is well regarded for his writing on the subject. The pages given over to his work are full of fascinating facts and early American asylum history. There is no hint of an attempt to shock the reader, rather a simple statement of the facts that most states found themselves spending a quarter or more of their budget trying to look after those with various mental problems.
The introduction is accompanied by many original photographs and illustrations and these help to show the sheer scale of what was being done.
The photographs though are what this is really all about and once they begin there is a kind of reverential silence that falls upon the reader. Far from being a lurid collection of disturbing 'ruin porn' these images simply pay homage to an era when lock and key were felt to be the only way and Victorian architecture began to be replaced by the modern style but somehow the gothic overtones remained.
The photography is simple, beautifully composed and as sharp as a tack.
Some have complained that the lack of references and explanation mean this is dull or of limited use as a study guide.
This is not about either, while avoiding shock tactics Payne leaves the viewer to make up their own mind and to simply enjoy the art on display.Read more ›
It is a nice reference book for an art library.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Partner thrilled to get this as a gift, been wanting to get this for agesPublished 5 months ago by dawnnew
Fantastic book, great photos and written text about the history of American Asylums.Published 14 months ago by Michael McManus
I fell in love with the beauty within this book,the atmoshere created through photographs,images that gave us the lives that had been kept hidden, were now stripped bare, among the... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Ms. L. J. Wood
I bought this as a gift and he loves it. The book is of a decent sizes and hardback with many different images in. Well worth the money to see the smile of his facePublished on 8 Feb. 2014 by Zina
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