Friday, September 4, 2009


Words like "memoir" and "asylum" are so evocative. These days, "asylum" often evokes shelter, records, or politics; but back in the day, "asylum" conjured up images of the insane. In his book, Asylum, recently published by the The MIT Press, photographerChristopher Payne breathtakingly captures the closed—and bygone—world of state mental hospitals, where original utopian plans for restful shelter devolved into institutional decay. Payne has a great eye; his images are compassionate, gorgeous, and high-quality. One of Chris's brilliant ideas was to ask Oliver Sacks to write an essay to accompany the photos.

Trained as an architect at the University of Pennsylvania and at Columbia University, Chris Payne is also a lively swing dancer. Another word leaps to mind: "Renaissance Man."

The photo of Christopher Payne's book, Asylum, is a screen grab from Barnes and Noble.


Suzanne Dell'Orto said...

Is he a fellow swing dancer?

Beth Tondreau said...

Yes, but I know Chris because he used to work in the architecture office next door to BTD. I found out that Chris swings thanks to random visit from a dance buddy who ran into Chris in the hall. Our dance hours differ. Mine end earlier in the eve; Chris's start late at night and end in the wee hours.