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Angels in the Architecture

A Photographic Elegy to an American Asylum

Heidi Johnson

Award Winner

Architecture, Michigan

Great Lakes Books Series

Paperback
Published: February 2004
ISBN: 9780814332122
Pages: 212 Size: 10x7
Illustrations: 115
Review

Heidi Johnson has written a profoundly moving book—her images haunt like dreams. She is both artist and historian, photographer and prose poet. Her hard work here has rescued from darkness a part of history, a part of the soul.

— Doug Stanton

In the nineteenth century, perhaps no approach to mental illness was more compassionate than that of hospital administrator Thomas Story Kirkbride, whose asylum designs integrated beauty and nature as a method to treat patients. The Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City, Michigan, was one of the last of nearly two hundred such architecturally intriguing asylums. Founded in 1885 under the principle "beauty is therapy," the Northern Michigan Asylum closed in 1989 and today stands as a haunting reminder of this lost era. Angels in the Architecture is a photographic study of this institution's one-hundred-year history. Heidi Johnson's photographs of the building today are juxtaposed with rare images from private collections and state archives. Johnson has captured Kirkbride's spirit of compassion—of angels in the architecture—in a book that conveys the human element of mental illness with beauty and integrity.

Heidi Johnson was a professional photographer whose clients include Michigan Land Use Institute, HOUR Detroit Magazine, Warner Brothers, Best Buy Corporation, and the state of Michigan. She was a former artist-in-residence in photography at Interlochen Arts Academy.

Heidi Johnson has captured the visual essence of these buildings with old and new photographs as well as from intimate vignettes.

– ForeWord Magazine

The spirits have come out of hiding in Heidi Johnson's Angels in the Architecture. Her haunting black-and-white photographs of the abandoned Traverse City State Hospital are an art photographer's tour de force.

– John Carlos Cantu, Ann Arbor News

The book combines brief reminiscences of staff and patients with photos from the pristine beginnings to Johnson's ghostly after visions.

– Observer & Eccentric

Heidi Johnson has written a profoundly moving book-her images haunt like dreams. She is both artist and historian, photographer and prose poet. Her hard work here has rescued from darkness a part of history, a part of the soul.

– Doug Stanton, author of In Harm’s Way

  • 2002 Michigan Notable Book Awards - Result: 1 of 20 selected annually
  • 2002 Michigan Notable Book Awards - Result: 1 of 20 selected annually