Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wisconsin Death Trip

I was given a copy of this book many years ago. It remains a classic of sorts for those interested in postmortem photography and obscure history. Here is but one documentary available about the book and photographs. The book has also been made into a movie.

Wisconsin Death Trip is a non-fiction book by Michael Lesy, first published in 1973. It has been adapted into a film.

The book is based on a collection of late 19th century photographs by Jackson County, Wisconsin photographer Charles Van Schaick, mostly in the city of Black River Falls, and local news reports from the same period. It emphasizes the harsh aspects of Midwestern rural life under the pressures of crime, disease, mental illness, and urbanization.

The film, which was directed by James Marsh and starred Marcus Monroe, was released in 2000. In a docudrama style, and shot entirely in black-and-white (except for contrasting sequences of modern life in the area, in color), it combined re-enactments of some of the events described in the book with a voice-over narration by Ian Holm. Its visual style was intended to carry the content of the film - as Marsh said:"I wanted to convey in the film the real pathos contained in a four line newspaper report that simultaneously records and dismisses the end of someone’s life"

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