Mental institutions don't have a reputation for beauty and splendor. But that's exactly what photographer Christopher Payne saw when he photographed the abandoned asylums that dot the American landscape.
Asylum, 2009 | Matteawan State Hospital (now Fishkill Correctional Facility) in Beacon, New York | (Christopher Payne)
For six years, the architect-turned-photographer visited 70 institutions in 30 states to capture what was left of the country's shuttered mental institutions.
"Buildings of such grandeur, detail, and beauty will never be seen again," Payne said in an interview. "I couldn't help but feel a certain intimacy with them, and a strong sense of protectorship and responsibility as, perhaps their final documenter."
As the science and understanding of the mind developed in the late 19th century, these sun-filled treatment facilities were built to meet the demand for and interest in curatorial measures for the mentally ill. A century later, budget cuts, overcrowding, and policy changes forced many of the Victorian campuses to close and succumb to the elements.
Initially, it was the look and style of the architecture that lured Payne into the project, but he quickly realized these hospitals were more than just pretty buildings. "[They were] self-sufficient communities, where almost everything of necessity was produced on site, including food, water, power, and even clothing and shoes." Payne's carefully composed shots highlight the multifaceted function of the asylums and the eerie beauty of their abandonment. Take a peek inside:
Straightjacket, 2007| Logansport State Hospital in Logansport, Indiana | (Christopher Payne)
Bowling shoes, 2006 | Rockland State Hospital in Orangeburg, New York | (Christopher Payne)
Autopsy theater, 2009 | St. Elizabeth Hospital in Washington, D.C. | (Christopher Payne)
Mead building stairwell, 2008 | Yankton State Hospital in Yankton, South Dakota | (Christopher Payne)
Toothbrushes, 2005 | Hudson River State Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York | (Christopher Payne)
Beauty salon, 2003 | Trenton State Hospital in Trenton, New Jersey | (Christopher Payne)
Seat cushions, 2009 | Terrell State Hospital in Terrell, Texas | (Christopher Payne)
Cemetery, 2005 | Connecticut Valley State Hospital in Middletown, Connecticut | (Christopher Payne)