From the Archive - County Coroner, Minneapolis, Minnesota (circa 1982)
This is from a series that has never been exhibited or published on what people do for a living. I was inspired by Studs Terkel’s book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do.
I thought it would be interesting to photograph the coroner for Hennepin County. I just called him up and he said to come down. I got there in the middle of the week and was disappointed because there weren’t any bodies. He said to come back on a Monday because there was usually a lot of business after a weekend.
I did as he suggested and walked down a dark narrow hallway that spilled out into a bright room. On top of a large metal sink-like table, not dissimilar to one I used in my darkroom, laid a male body with the chest cavity pried open and the skin pulled off the face.
Shocking. I had never seen a corpse before. But once I looked through the viewfinder the excitement of trying to make photographic sense of this macabre scene took over. I decided to use the light above his head, knowing it would create a halo-like flare for this investigator of death. The sweetly sick pungent odor of formaldehyde and pickled flesh stayed with me for days.