Like so many abandoned places, North Brother Island in the East River constantly draws the attention and fascination of urban explorers, and the fact that the 13-acre piece of land is closed to the public only amplifies its intrigue. A few daring (or crazy?) souls have found their way to the island alone, but photographer Christopher Payne visited with the blessing of the New York City Parks Department, which allowed him to return to the island multiple times over a period of several years. The result is a 144-page book filled with Payne's photos. The images show a shockingly lush landscape, where nature has taken over the crumbling quarantine hospital that once housed Typhoid Mary, juvenile heroin-addicts, the mentally ill, and many others cast out by the city. The complex has been abandoned for more than 50 years, but an amazing amount remains on the isolated land. An essay by Robert Sullivan and a history of the island by Randall Mason accompany Payne's photos, providing a detailed portrait of a place that many New Yorkers once feared.
To learn more about the man behind the images and what it's like to visit "the last unknown place in New York City," Nathan Kensinger, Curbed's Camera Obscura columnist and photographer, will be talking with Payne about his work, so stay tuned for the interview. Payne is also hosting a talk and book signing next Friday, May 16.
· Christopher Payne [official]
· All North Brother Island coverage [Curbed]