Chris Payne, a photographer based in New York City, specializes in the documentation of America’s vanishing architecture and industrial landscape. His first book, New York’s Forgotten Substations: The Power Behind the Subway (Princeton Architectural Press, 2002), offered dramatic, rare views of the behemoth machines that are hidden behind modest facades in New York City. His new book, Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals (MIT Press, 2009), which includes an essay by the renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks, is the result of a six-year exploration of America’s vast and largely abandoned state mental institutions.
Trained as an architect, Payne is a graduate of Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania. His interest in historic buildings and industrial architecture began shortly after college, when he documented cast iron bridges, grain elevators, and power plants for the Historic American Engineering Record of the National Park Service, and, later, produced measured drawings for New York University’s excavations at Aphrodisias, a Greco-Roman city in Turkey. He has been awarded grants by the Graham Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.