Modem Europe Fall-Winter 2013-2014
Cover by Christopher Payne
Born in 1968, is a photographer fascinated by production, creation, construction and function. Payne is based in New York City, specializes in the documentation of America’s vanishing architecture and industrial landscape. Trained as an architect, he has a natural interest in how things are purposefully designed and constructed, and how they work. 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 latest 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 seven-year exploration of America’s vast and largely abandoned state mental institutions.
Payne' s 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. Whether the site was 50 or 2000 years old, he realized how quickly buildings, places, and people can be forgotten.
For all his personal work, Payne uses a large format view camera because it records a wealth of detail and information—more than the human eye can comprehend. When printed at large scale, the photographs become almost inhabitable, conveying the beauty and significance of places most people do not have the opportunity to see firsthand.
« ... In architecture school you’re taught how to convey an idea effectively on a twodimensional surface so that it’s immediately recognizable and understandable. I’m trying to do that with my photography so that each photograph contains a story within itself but is also part of a larger series of photographs — like the way a single drawing is part of a larger drawing set. I’ve just traded one medium for another… »