Ottawa, Canada-based photographer Matt Van der Velde’s interest in the history and evolution of mental health treatment arose from his experience as an infantry soldier in the Canadian Forces and his personal struggles with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Combining that with his curiosity for documenting places hidden from society, he has created a book titled Abandoned Asylums that explores North America’s often massive state hospitals and psychiatric facilities, which were constructed in the 19th century and largely came out of use by the 1950s.
In an essay for Dezeen, Van der Velde writes: “Exploring and photographing these former institutions offered me solace in seeing first hand how far we've come, and how far we have to go in the treatment of mental illness and the stigmas attached.”
His photographs are haunting, powerful, and insightful, shining a light on how former patients might have lived, and how architecture was thought to be a treatment in itself.
The book covers institutions where Marilyn Monroe and other celebrities sought a safe haven, as well as a seclusion cell at a facility where Charles Manson was once incarcerated. Have a look.