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Human-minus-Life

A project exploring images of death

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I am not an artist. I am not a photographer. I have no point to make, no social commentary. I don't want to glorify death, make it romantic, pretty or sexy. I'm just working out my grief the only way I know how.

My partner died and so did our life. I was unable to see her body before she was transported to the morgue. I tried in vain several times to see her both in the morgue and crematorium and was told repeatedly that I 'didn't want to see her that way' because she had been found over 24 hours after she died. But I did want to see her, and the lack of that closure haunted me in ways I can't describe. I was plagued with images of her in my mind, her last moments and the feeling that she was alone, without us, her family. The desperate need to be with her in the moment of death consumed me. What did she look like? What did she feel? What did she smell? What did she see? Was she afraid? Did she think of me?

The drama was further complicated by the mystery surrounding how she died, what was first declared a 'heart attack' later became a vague 'combined drug intoxication', with few if any people able to tell me what that meant. I began an obsessive, single-minded quest to uncover the truth. Meetings with the coroners office, the police officer who responded to the call that night, repeated phone calls to the morgue and police, and the long nights pouring over her autopsy report, tox screen and coroners investigation reports ensued. Her heart weighed 320 grams. Was that all?

During this time I became suicidal, reckless, destructive, unreachable by friends and family. My world was a kaleidoscope of dead bodies, cold morgue drawers, crime scenes, autopsy terminology and my beloved reduced to ashes in a burning oven at 2100 °F and delivered to me in a box that I slept with in bed. I wanted to follow her wherever she went, I didn't want to stay here. But there was one problem with that, Traci and I shared a child, a little boy that I couldn't leave alone. I had to find a way out of this slide show of horror in my mind. I had to find a way to connect to her death and yet stay alive.

What I needed was to extract the thoughts from my overwhelmed brain, what I needed was an exorcism. I needed to organize the fears, categorize them and label them, give them a shape I could handle and tuck under something at night.

The results are some very ugly and scary pictures right out of the nightmares in my head. Each scene is acted out as fully as it can be before the shots are taken. I should say this is not something I have openly shared until now. For one, it's flat-out disturbing, especially if you care about the subject in the picture, and two, I in no way wanted to glamorize/glorify death, murder, or suicide. Lastly, I didn't want to offend anyone who had lost a family member in these ways. For all these reasons and because of my son I have kept this project private until now.

A project exploring images of death