- Series: MIT Press
- Hardcover: 209 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press; 1 edition (September 4, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262013495
- ISBN-13: 978-0262013499
- Product Dimensions: 11.8 x 1 x 10.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 87 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals (MIT Press) 1st Edition
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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)
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)
Beautifully researched, exquisitely photographed and expertly composed and edited...Extraordinary.(Frieze)
Christopher Payne's photographs perfectly match his subjects: they are strong, yet understated and dignified -- a fitting tribute to the talented architects who built these asylums and the troubled people they sheltered. It's impossible to look at this wonderful book without imagining the people who lived in these formidable structures, and wondering about their lives and what happened to them.(Henry Horenstein, photographer)
... 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)
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.
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Numerous Blank Pages raise the question was the book proofed before publishing and if so what is the intent of a page being part of the page numbering sequence of the book but having nothing on it.
Is there any explanation for all the blank pages amongst the photos?
Additionally, I found the book to be as empty in content as some of the pictures portray the places the author visited. The inclusion of an essay doesn't make it a typical coffee table photography book and certainly leads into the pictures and provides background. The essay tries to convey the story of these places and with that being said I felt that each picture could have used a little description and/or anecdote. Instead of just a photograph with a label stating where each picture was taken I feel the reader would have enjoyed a little background on the picture presented. Whether it be a description or history of something in the photograph or a little history on the hospital I felt that was something needed to keep me really into the book instead of just quickly turning the pages. If there was something there with the photography to read the book would have been much more of an experience for the reader.
The other awesome thing about the pictures in this book is the sheer beauty of the archietecture. The buildings are magnificent and it is so sad that they are largely being destoryed or neglected. I drool over the abject beauty of some of these old hospitals especially the large ones. I wish I had tons of money because, I would love to convert some of these buildings into condos or apartments. They are in such idealic locations in many cases because; mental patients like prisoners were often kept out of sight and out of mind of the general "normal" populations.
You look at some of these hospitals and think of all the suffering patients endured as doctors tried to cure them of madness using the most barbaric methods imaginable. Ice water shock baths, insulin therapy, electro shock, lobotomy to name just a few tortures inflicted on the mentally disturbed all in hopes of shocking the poor devils back into sanity. These were hospitals in name only what they really were are warehouses for the involuntary containment sick minds. The pictures are so crisp clear and compelling you can almost smeel the faint aroma of urine, feces cleaning solution and alcohol that seems omnipresent in such institutions. You look at the peeling pain old radiators acient medical equipment and you can hear the plaintive yelps of people unwillingly being lead to "treatment!"
Some of the institutions have an Addams Family quality about them. Others look just like the human warehouses for insane minds they were designed to be. This book with its big empty decaying former mental institutions makes you think about the plight of the mentally ill today and that is not a bad thing. These institutions now dead and rotting away unseen makes you think about their former residents asking where are they now. Unfortunately those we once locked away as mental ill in hospitals shown in this book and many others we now know as "Homeless People!" Many but not all of the "Homeless People" rpaming our urban streets are the mentally ill who would have in earlier times filled the walls of these old hospitals to the bursting point.
Now the mental ill are FREE of their mental hospital prisons. Yes thanks to deinstiutionalization and psychiatric wonder drugs mental patients formerly locked away in huge mental hospital prisons are free to liter our urban landscape. Free to sit in dark dank alley ways muttering to themselves, off medication because; drug side effects often make then vulnerable to street predators. The community help proposed to help deinstitutionalized mental patients never materialized so sick minds roam the streets in search of food, drug, drink and home, hope lost full of despair. These huge mental hospitals were prisons of the mind with their horrific stories that set the stage for the story we witness today whenever we see a mental patient homeless ill fed, ill clothed and lost to the mean streets. This book of pictures of evils past is a direct connection to evils present if one bothers to think about the real meaning of all the empty hallways, bed chambers and medical bays. Oh yes with deinstiutionalization life for the mental patient changed profoundly as all these rotting hulks of former mental hospitals attest but upon witnessing the results of the homeless but mentally ill who are leigion on our streets was this change for the better. The real message of this book begs us to think about those who once called these places home are they better off for having been set FREE! That answer is yours to ponder after looking through this book!