Kristen Blaul’s images of an abandoned mental hospital are disturbing and beautiful. One has to wonder what has happened to the patients who lived there- did they find a better home with family or did they simply die so as not to be a burden? Were they rescued by long lost friends or died alone, found a few days later by an overworked and underpaid aid? There is a saying that you can tell a lot about a country by how it cares for its most vulnerable, and if that’s true, I think we’re in trouble. We live in a time of stubbornly high unemployment rates while corporate profits soar, demoralized workers doing more for less, a fraying social safety net coupled with a political ideology that believes the rich need to be coddled while the rest of us sacrifice have led us into a cul-de-sac of stagnation and despair.
When looking at Kristen’s fine images, her piercing vision and elegant compositions belie the fact that this was a facility that cared for people who could not care for themselves. Her beautiful photographs are in direct contrast to the sinking feeling that this was a place that, for better or worse, provided an essential service, one that is no longer offered.
Photographers love ruins, abandonment and the forgotten. There is something so romantic, like a Gothic novel, about an empty structure, its broken windows and gaping door frame suggesting a face screaming at us for attention. Going alone into such places is an adventure, and not always safe and probably illegal, but photographers do it to find an authentic manifestation of their visions. When they’re lucky, they find it, and when we viewers are lucky, we get to see their pictures.