Strangest Photography Assignment
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The Head was used as a design model for movie production. I was consigned to photograph the Head and Houdini's seance table in the same week, both brought over by its owner who "rented" these out periodically for studios to model. The resulting photos were to be in his "catalog of creepy stuff" for hire.
To photograph the head I wore cotton gloves while preparing the set. I didn't want to particularly touch it anyway. It was difficult to do this without thinking about "who" this once was. Creepy as hell along with the Houdini table in the back of my mind. Balanced the head on top of a gooseneck clamp. The branches for leaves I added to make it appear jungle-like.
About this Head: This real shrunken human head most likely was a child because it's lustrous, dark brown hair was not very long, but beautifully clean and shiny. I have heard about many fakes, but I inspected this closely and there were hairs coming out of the skin in just the same pattern as you'd find on a human. The imperfections seemed real.
The Head is only about three inches high. It smelled of menthol and camphor and was kept in a glass jar with a metal lid. I'm told the process was to peel the face off of the skull, then wrap around progressively smaller heated rocks which kept the shape of a skull until its final dried form. Note the lips sewn shut with the "string" knotted through a small bone handle. Who was this? Did he or she have a name? Were these killed babies, used as war trophies and tourist trinkets?
Inside was stuffed newspaper written in spanish wording dated around 1930's i think.
It was a creepy assignment, but fun too.
Circa 1992, a quick digital photo of the print. Hope I can find the negatives.
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