Light Painting with 1,871 Slices of a Corpse
Joseph Paul Jernigan was a Texas murderer who was executed by lethal injection. His body was then sliced into 1,871, 1mm cross sections, digitized and has now been used to create eerily stunning photographs.
Croix Gagnon (concept and art director), Frank Schott (photographer) and Alex Katz (post production) used a combination of night photography and long-exposure photographs of the animation below:
…to create these images:
This animation represents the entire data set (1,871 slices) of the male cadaver from the Visible Human Project. The animation was played fullscreen on a computer, which was moved around by an assistant while being photographed in a dark environment. The resulting images are long-exposure “light paintings” of the entire cadaver. Variations in the movement of the computer during each exposure created differences in the shape of the body throughout the series.
The project has been named 12:31, which was the time of death (by lethal injection) for Joseph Paul Jernigan.
In 1981, Jernigan was sentenced to death for stabbing and shooting 75-year-old Edward Hale, who discovered him stealing a microwave oven. Jernigan spent 12 years in prison before his final plea for clemency was denied. His cadaver was sectioned and photographed for the Visible Human Project at the University of Colorado’s Health Sciences Center.
Visible Human Project is an effort to create a detailed data set of cross-sectional photographs of the human body, in order to facilitate anatomy visualization applications. Jernigan’s cadaver was encased and frozen in a gelatin and water mixture in order to stabilize the specimen for cutting. The specimen was then cut in the axial plane at 1 millimeter intervals. Each of the resulting 1,871 slices were photographed in both analog and digital, yielding more than 65 gigabytes of data.
At the prompting of a prison chaplain Jernigan had agreed to donate his body for scientific research or medical use, without knowing about the Visible Human Project. Some people have voiced ethical concerns over this. One of the most notable statements came from the University of Vienna which demanded that the images be withdrawn with reference to the point that the medical profession should have no association with executions, and that the donor’s informed consent could be scrutinised.
The results of 12:31 are damn spectacular. I’ve watched the animation used in this project years ago but having seen what Croix, Frank and Alex have done with it makes me think: “Damn, why didn’t I think of that!?” They have definitely helped me view things differently. I now try to look at everything as a potential project. Thanks for the inspiration guys.
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