Un-quiet photography by Jeffrey Silverthorne.
January 6, 2009 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Photographer Jeffrey Silverthorne takes beautiful, quiet photos of disquieting subject matter. His early works included two series on morgues and transvestites. [nsfw, via]
posted by grapefruitmoon (14 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I do not like looking at these, which does not mean that I do not like them.
posted by goldfinches at 3:51 PM on January 6, 2009

Cant say I think all that much about the other photos (they're well shot but unremarkable) but the morgue photos are haunting and creepy, even if they are (more than) a bit staged. Interesting find.
posted by elendil71 at 3:52 PM on January 6, 2009

What few I saw were really well done, but I wish I hadn't clicked.

Of course, the first photo I saw had to be a dead boy.
posted by middleclasstool at 3:57 PM on January 6, 2009

Checkout the book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers , it's riveting and humorous look at what happens to cadavers.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:12 PM on January 6, 2009

I like.

But then, I spent some of my formative years with a curious on-and-off fascination with unwholesome gruesomeness.

This is not unwholesome gruesomeness. There's a startling calm about these images, for the most part. A sense of deep quiet, in a disquieting image.

I don't know. I'll stop with the trying to analyze like some art-critic poseur now.
posted by po at 4:30 PM on January 6, 2009

I just feel like I invaded their private sleep for personal gain.
posted by sfts2 at 4:57 PM on January 6, 2009

I knew Jeffrey from back about 20 years ago when I lived in Madison, WI. Sweetest and most generous guy you could ever imagine. I haven't seen his work in years nor been in contact with him since—my ex-wife got to keep all of our art friends after the divorce. Thanks for the reminder. His work kind of reminds me of a cocktail of Nan Goldin, Ken Miller, Jan Saudek, and Joel-Peter Witkin, shaken violently and served over very dry ice.
posted by Toekneesan at 5:11 PM on January 6, 2009

This morning, I buried a family friend. He was our priest back in the 1970's and 80's, but he's been retired for nearly 30 years. He's like a grandfather to us. He comes to our home for holidays and parties. We fix him a huge Manhattan or Old Fashioned and listen to him tell the same jokes he's told us since we were kids.

My brother and his family are in Disney World, but I wanted him to see how good he looked, so I took a few pictures of Father in his casket. I stood at the side and took a few shots with my new Canon Powershot. I am a fan of "memento mori" photography, but there was something off-putting about taking the pictures myself. It wasn't as distasteful as the people I see standing over a casket, trying to take a cell phone picture, but it wasn't far off.

As the day wore on today, I got a death call for a 10yo boy who had died in a car wreck, a ten ounce stillborn baby, and a 53yo man who died of cancer. I wish I was able to take the kind of photographs of them like the ones pictured above, but I, too, feel as if it would be a violation for me to do it. But see...I don't have a problem with someone else doing it. I just don't feel comfortable doing it myself.

Maybe one day I'll get the confidence to trust my skill and sensitivity to take beautiful pictures of such sad people. But I'm not there yet.
posted by ColdChef at 5:18 PM on January 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

His transvestites don't look all that lively, either.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:23 PM on January 6, 2009

The two I found most beautiful were "Woman who died in her sleep" and "Kiera, High Lake." The woman who died in her sleep looks peaceful and pretty in the midst of the violence of death--the incisions, the discoloration of her skin, the sagging musculature. It's a stark contrast that highlights the beauty of her sleeping smile.
posted by fatbird at 5:48 PM on January 6, 2009

Art with corpses is a sticky thing.

My only experience with cadavers is attending a life drawing class in a grossing lab at a medical school. Since my own attempts to control a pencil are limited at best, I carried my Polaroid Land Camera and tried to capture something like what Silverthrone and Witkin were able to round up in their better moments. It was hard for me to work around the protective shield I put up to convince myself these objects were cadavers, not people and still try to photograph them in ways that showed some humanity, either mine or theirs. Thanks for reminding me how well the masters can do this.

I'm sure I've mentioned it here before, but check out the excellent undertaking set on flickr by underbunny.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:40 AM on January 7, 2009

Disce Mori
posted by ColdChef at 7:28 AM on January 7, 2009

Sad and beautiful.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:40 AM on January 7, 2009

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