CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Photographer Sterling "Rip'' Smith has always had an affinity for architecture, the image and the story. After hearing about the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, Sterling decided to pay the infamous stone mason facility a visit.
Captivated by the size and condition of the historic site, Smith set out to do a study of the property using the power of the lens.
"I was immediately hooked,'' he said. "I said, `I need to photograph this building.'''
Over the course of a few months and several trips to Weston, Smith's latest book, "Asylum,'' was created. An exhibit at the Washington Street Artists' Cooperative in Charles Town features 20 images from the book.
"The images are an exploration of an extraordinary historical site in the heart of rural West Virginia,'' a press release said.
Built in the 19th century, Smith said the asylum was designed to provide patients with as much sunlight and air as possible.
"That was considered to be healing,'' Smith said.
The building was also built to hold only 250 patients, but was quickly overfilled.
"[It] got out of control very fast,'' Smith said. "By all accounts, they were really just crammed in together like sardines, and it was very, very bad.''