Photogenic vintage corpses displayed under the ‘dark veil’

In Art, Arts & Entertainment

Step into the haunting, bone-chilling experience housed in the Begovich Gallery.

The haunting photographs of the art exhibit titled, Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem and Mourning Photography from The Thanatos Archive, casts a ghostly environment set in the Victorian and early 20th century era.

The exhibit displays a compilation of 180 photographs from The Thanatos Archive that document death and mourning.

The photos are contained in dimly lit glass cases that resemble a coffin.

Photos of the dead offer an unusual, eerie feel that is evident throughout the exhibit.

The arrangement of photos are accompanied by vintage newspaper articles, clippings, funeral notices, memorial ephemera and more.

Curator of Beyond the Dark Veil, Jacqueline Ann Bunge Barger, described the tone of the exhibit as haunting, beautiful and deeply moving.

According to the CSUF arts website, the collection will take viewers on a journey through a fascinating, moving and melancholically beautiful part of human existence.

The images in Beyond the Dark Veil speak of love, loss, lives cut short, brave final hours, shattered families and the depths of the human spirit.

Before entering the exhibition, visitors are given a flashlight and a magnifying glass to view the photos as they walk through the dark, shadowy exhibit.

While moving from one group of photos to another, each section is labeled.

The sections include crime/murder/tragedy, pets, ephemera and mourning and children and family.

Many of the pieces show corpses photographed in different ways, some with eyes shut and others with eyes wide open.

Visitors can also look through stereo viewers, which add a 3-D effect while viewing the photographs.

Midway through the exhibit, a free DVD slideshow is available that consists of photographs with a selection of daguerreotypes, old types of photos that were made from a piece of silver or copper, from different sections of the exhibition.

The rest of the sections include photos of dead pets, adults, children and people in mourning.

The objects in the exhibition are property of the The Thanatos Archive, which is owned and operated by Jack Mord, a collector of rare vintage photography.

The Thanatos Archive, located in Woodinville, Wash., contains an extensive collection of early post-mortem, memorial and mourning photographs dating as far back as the 1840s.

“I actually went up to pick up the collection,” said Martha Rocha, who is in the graduate program for museum students. “I went to the collector’s house in Seattle and put in the collection and packaged it away.”

Rocha, along with a couple of other graduate students, were able to assist visitors as they walked through the gallery.

“I think it’s an interesting window into a part of American and international history as far as photography and how people use to remember their loved ones,” Rocha said. “I think that when walking in, there isn’t a real understanding of what post-mortem photography really is and the quality, interest and care that people would take into their deceased loved ones. I think it’s really beautiful and mysterious in a way.”

Barger said her biggest desire was for people to be aware that these photos and objects exist.

Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem and Mourning Photography runs from Nov. 2 to Dec. 12.

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