Ghosts

Elizabeth Heyert's most recent book, The Narcissists, is published by Sei Swann, New York and Silvana Editoriale, Milan.

elizabethheyert.com

From the series 'The Travellers'

Daniel Rumph. Born September 1933, Branchville, South Carolina; died September 2003, Harlem, New York

Shot in a Harlem funeral parlour, Heyert's nearly life-size colour photographs evolved from her fascination with the practice of some members of the Harlem community, people with traditional ties to their church and to their Southern roots, of elaborately dressing corpses for burial. No matter the circumstances of their life, or death, the departed are, in one undertaker's words, "going to the party" – jubilantly dressed in satin dresses, white suits, tuxedos, and magnificent hats for their journey to paradise.

Mesmerized by this gorgeous preparation ritual for greeting life after death, Heyert embarked on a project to photograph the beautifully coiffed and adorned bodies as if she were making formal portraits of living human beings. Heyert's portraits offer a provocative meditation on humanity, dignity and death, while poignantly highlighting a fading funeral custom associated with the changing Harlem community.

James 'La Smoothe' Patterson, Jr. Born September 1966, New York, New York; died February 2004, Harlem, New York

Rosie Inez Miller. DoB unknown; died October 2003, Harlem, New York

Preston Washington, Sr. Born February 1924, New York, New York; died September 2003, Harlem, New York

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