Bedlam 1946

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“In addition to its social reform agenda, this series explored one of the era’s central philosophical concerns:  the tragic disjunction – and essential fragility – of the human body, mind, and spirit.  Notably, Cooke’s series anticipated by more than a decade similar bodies of work by Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus.”
— Keith F. Davis, American Century of Photography

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This photographic essay changed the way America viewed “Insane Asylums,” inspiring much needed reform.  There were several significant photographs from this body of work that were not used in the Bedlam essay, including the award winning Family of Man image, “Ohio Insane Asylum.”

Many of the photographs continue to be included in exhibitions, and published widely in books, magazines, and mental health textbooks, describing the dehumanization and segregation that characterized may institutions in the twentieth century.

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