In 2003/2004 Elizabeth Heyert photographed the bodies of more than thirty people at the Harlem funeral parlor of Isaiah Owens who prepared the corpses for their last journey. She would take pictures early in the morning, after the families had said goodbye to their loved ones the previous evening and before the service later in the morning.
This book is a unique contribution to contemporary portrait photography. It is movingly intimate but never sensationalist. As Heyert explains, there is a historical dimension to these images: I was aware that I was also photographing a community from the past, a vanishing piece of cultural history. Some of the people I photographed left a brutal life in the Depression-era South to move to Harlem, where many of the southern religious traditions were re-established. Younger peo-ple were born and died in Harlem, but were still buried according to the old style, dressed for going to the party (Isaiah Owens) but in snazzy track suits instead of burial gowns. With Harlem rapidly changing, these traditions are fading. I hope my photographs will tell some small part of the story of a passing generation and their way of death.
Elizabeth Heyert is the author/photographer of Metropolitan Places, The Artful Table, The Glasshouse Years, and The Sleepers.
Book condition: Very good
Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 25.4 x 33 cm