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Best Books - A Closer Look: Crime Victims Chronicle

Crime Victims Chronicle
In reading a new biography on Cleopatra, I recall author Stacy Schiff mentioning how women in this era would rip their clothing and tear at their chests as a show of sorrow and grieving. Some cultures find this to be socially acceptable public behavior, but most funerals I have attended in the US are quiet affairs where those mourning are almost as silent as the person lost. The process of dealing with death is different for each person, but open public mourning makes many uncomfortable. Mourning is personal.

Crime Victims Chronicle is the new publication by Silas Finch as part of a series co-published with photographer and publisher Raymond Meeks. For this first volume in the series, they selected the difficult topic of dealing with the loss of a family member who has passed away as the result of violence. Designed by Meeks, the layout of the book creatively and quietly combines his photographs, text excerpts from Rose Preston's Crime Victims Guidebook, and loose folio images from Deborah Luster's series Tooth for an Eye. Meeks introduces the subject in the opening pages with circular obituaries of individuals killed as a result of violence. The images are captioned by their familial relationship: son, cousin, daughter, aunt, and grandson. Then he guides through imagery of what one could imagine as a scenes were someone was killed or possibly a location where one would take a meditative walk to clear one's mind. Mixed in with Meeks' images is text from the Crime Victims Guidebook speaking to those who have lost loved ones in this horrible way and for those who have not -- it's also a guidebook for empathy. The circular images from Tooth for an Eye where Luster creates "a compelling portrait in the form of a photographic archive of contemporary and historic homicide sites" (from the description of the new Twin Palms book of same title) are presented as loose folios inserted into the book.
 
From Crime Victims Chronicle
From Crime Victims Chronicle
 The typeface is printed in light gray and in a san serif font with no frills. The characters that rest on the page are small, modest and subtle: Some Helpful Tools states "watch a funny movie -- sometimes escaping the darkness helps stop the feelings of guilt or shame or defeat;" in What to Say, What to Avoid, "Say: I'm sad for you. Avoid: Death is a blessing;" and includes a template for a letter to your missed love one. The continuity of design allows for meditation on first the cover title, the obituaries, images and text. Everything about the book is modest, but one of the most complete objects that I have seen this year. Orchard, Volume 1: Crime Victims Chronicle is a beautiful photobook and its subject should not be thought of as a macabre, rather it is a book that can teach us more about the universal experience of mourning.


From Crime Victims Chronicle


Selected as one of the Best Books of 2010 by Melanie McWhorter.

Purchase a copy of this book here.

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