Reaching In   (ongoing series)

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A friend and co-worker in forensics once told me "Every time you work with the dead, you take a little bit of that with you - its like collecting stones in your pockets - it will weigh you down if you don't find a way to unload your pockets." - But, how do you grieve for people you don’t know? Reaching In, explores that notion through a collection of shells gathered from the river with found images reprinted on them. 

 

Visiting the river became an escape from my day job in forensics. During the pandemic, I became a Death Investigator, where I examined bodies of those who have died in an untimely manner.  I came to learn that the encounters with the dead, the event of their death and their life stories was much more intimate experience than I realized.  Reaching In - describes the act of looking and collecting shells through the distorted surface of the water,  which feels much like the death investigations I conduct.

 

At the river, I found refuge away from cellular service, chaotic scenes and people. While there, I began collecting shells from the bottom of the river and bringing them home. Quickly I amassed a pile of shells. Using the cyanotype process, I paired these shells with glass plate negatives  and reprinted portraits on top of them. Many of these images are from +100 years ago and much like my investigations, give me a fragment of insight into each of their lives. These resulting portraits became momentos of grief and helped me visualize the invisible weight I carry with me after engaging with someone after death.

© 2021 by Alivia Magaña