Thursday, July 1, 2010

Jack Burman: The Dead

Canadian photographer Jack Burman's long awaited book of post mortem portraits, The Dead, is finally here. The Magenta Foundation (Toronto) has published a fine collection of Burman's amazing photographs in three forms: the hardcover edition, hardcover edition in a wooden box, and the deluxe boxed edition with a signed original print.

Martha Hanna (director of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography) provided a brief introduction, and Robert Enright interviewed Burman for the text. Burman's work spans decades of searching for the humanity of human remains from sites far away from battlefields and streets. He forces us to come face to face with individuals, with the actual dead, not just symbols of the dead. He explores the collections of prepared medical specimens in Latin American and European medical museums.

The wooden box encasing the book is rough, unfinished, except for a transparent gray stain. Its halves fit together tightly, held fast with rare earth magnets, so there is a brief struggle as you attempt to access the book within. The black and white print included in the deluxe edition is small (5.5 inches by 6.5 inches on 10.25 by 7.25 paper) in an edition of 100. It is of a richly detailed, articulated crouching human skeleton entitled Germany #49 (Catatonic Man), 2009.

Although I've seen this kind of subject before (such as in Rosamond Purcell and Stephen Jay Gould's  Finders, Keepers: Eight Collectors), many images were a surprise, both in their elegance and their visceral power. The reproduction quality is excellent in spite of the smallish format of the book it self. The size may actually contribute to its intimacy rather than sensationalize its content. I highly recommend this book for the discerning collector of all things macabre.

1 comment:

  1. It's so gorgeous! I wonder if my library would order it in... </3


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