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BENAH LOVES | Library of Dust



These canisters contain the cremated remains of patients from the Oregon State Psychiatry hospital. Each one has subtle differences, an organic personality that shines through, be it in the pattern of the rust or the colour of the detailing across the copper vessel. Photographer David Maisel shot over 3000 of some 5000 canisters contained in the "library" at the old psychiatry hospital, and collated them into a book called "Library of Dust". Each photo is remarkable for  its disparity from the previous - and the next - in more than 3000 canisters there is not one identical pair. How does this happen? Each deceased patient was forced into uniformity - same canister, same clinical number starting at 01 stamped onto the lid, same label with sparse personal details pasted onto the front, same placement along shelves in the "library"... But despite - or perhaps because of - this attempt at control imposed over humanity, the canisters are embodiments of the individuality and uniqueness of human life and death. Maisel has captured the canisters and their details in a state of flux - the nature of decomposition and the growth of minerals means that each item is in a constant state of transformation. They are never the same - never before or since - revealing that even in death we are always changing.

We think these photographs are incredibly, incredibly beautiful. Not just because of the history behind them, but also because of the actual form of detailing across the canisters. They are chaotic yet, remarkably, oh so peaceful, and are strangely compelling. Trust us, once  you click over to the site you'll lose yourself scrolling through the images and want to order the book to get a glimpse at the other couple of thousand you haven't seen yet. Some of them recall the mysteries of outer space - which you know we think are awesome - and the northern lights and the sky on a cloudy day, some of them take the shape of crashing waves, or dripping paint, or snow, or a handful of dust. Which reminds us...

T.S Eliot, The Wasteland

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