In America, psychiatric hospitals seem to hold equal weight in their reputations when functional as well as abandoned. Institutions for the insane and a haunting labyrinth of hallways thereafter, these remnants of old U.S. methods, lost therapies in such a short national history, stand tall in the wind that always seems to surround them. So of course photographer Christopher Payne had to explore and capture their ghostly fates and colorful, stunning facades.
Over the course of six years, Payne made it to 30 U.S. states in order to investigate and snap 70 mental hospitals for his series Asylum. It’s certainly a strange sight to behold over and over — dramatic edifices designed by renowned architects, purposefully filled with madness and hope, and then slipping into a new legacy as eerie, tragic American ruins by the time a photographer steps in to capture such strange, tantalizing wonder.
He explained the pull of fascination behind the project to Ignant, saying, “From the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth, more than 250 institutions for the insane were built throughout the United States; by 1948 they housed over half a million patients. But over the next thirty years, with the introduction of psychotropic drugs and policy shifts toward community-based care, patient populations declined dramatically, leaving many of these massive buildings neglected and abandoned.”
See America’s past in a chilling light that still radiates now.