You”ve probably heard of the practice of post-mortem photography, and in a technical sense, that”s exactly what photographer Arne Svenson does. Except, there is one major difference: Svenson”s subjects were never actually alive.
Last year, Svenson released a series of photographs called Unspeaking Likeness. For this series, Svenson spent 4 years on the road, traveling to and from different corners” offices and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and Mexico. At those facilities, he took pictures of something the deceased left behind; he photographed their facial reconstruction sculptures.
Facial reconstruction sculptures are molded from unidentified skeletal remains by forensic artists trying to help police figure out who the person was.
They”re only commissioned by law enforcement agencies when the facial features of a victim have been eroded away by the passage of time or severe trauma.
A forensic artist”s job is no easy task. Using just fiberglass, clay, intuition, and the victim”s skull they have to recreate that person”s likeness.
Typically, these reconstructions are built directly onto the victim”s skulls. Once the victim is identified, the artists must disassemble their work to return the skull to the family.
For Unspeaking Likeness, Svenson photographed these highly detailed facial reconstructions as if he were just taking a traditional portrait.
The focus in all of these photos is the eyes. It”s easy to forget that these aren”t actually people.
These reconstructions are uncannily detailed (and most definitely eerie).
The goal of this project his project is for viewers to relate to these people as fellow humans. Not only that, but Svenson wants others to understand the kind of terrible fate that resulted in these reconstructions.
This is the definition of haunting photography. I can”t help but feel bad for these people for what happened to them. It”s so sad. For more from Arne Scenson make sure to check out his website here.