In Victorian England, a growing population and a lack of medical understanding resulted in a proliferation of so-called insane asylums that were soon present in nearly every county in the country. The institutions existed to treat "pauper lunatics" -- anyone from the chronically afflicted to people with drug addiction, learning disabilities, and even "pregnant single women who had been cast out by their relatives," according to the British Journal of Psychiatry.
From 2005 to 2010, photographer Daniel Regan explored these derelict structures full of dusty sunlight, old beds, personal artifacts, medical equipment and file cabinets, producing a photo series called "Abandoned."
He said these buildings were essentially walled cities that housed thousands, some of the complexes including cinemas, theaters, hair dressers and dentists. And today, many of them are empty.
As eerie and unsettling as they are to the viewer, the photos in "Abandoned" are more than "ruin porn," Regan told The Huffington Post. In 2004, he experienced a breakdown and spent the summer in a psychiatric hospital.
"Being in a psychiatric hospital is a strange environment that I found quite difficult," said Regan, who was 19 at the time of his stay.
"I use photography as my form of expression dealing with my issues. Walking around those buildings was a meditative practice that felt very liberating."
It was after his stay that he and a friend explored his first empty asylum. "That was the first transformative experience," he said. "In a way, I felt very connected to the space and perhaps not the experience of being a patient in an asylum, but the collective experience of people having difficulty and being in need of support. It made me feel less alone."
Of all the photographs Regan has captured during the five-year period of exploration, he considers his most important to be of a painting hanging on wall with peeling paint. "It was from the first visit that I made. There are lots of questions surrounding these buildings. I just thought, whose is this painting and why is it still here? Whose room was this? Why did they have this painting? Did they paint it? There are lots of curiosities."
While he admitted the asylums are "all very eerie," Regan explained that "it’s a surreal experience to be so alone in a building that was probably so full of people and to see a site in the form that it’s not intended to be used for."
Today, Regan considers his photo series to be "dormant" while he focuses on developing programs that use art as therapy for people with health difficulties. He's working on a portrait series called "The Secrets Project."
All images are copyright of Daniel Regan and under no circumstance can be reproduced without permission.
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