“In 1913 an Oregon state psychiatric institution began to cremate the remains of its unclaimed patients. Their ashes were then stored inside individual copper canisters and moved into a small room, where they were stacked onto pine shelves.
“After doing some research into the story, Maisel got in touch with the hospital administrators – the same hospital, it turns out, where they once filmed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – and he was granted access to the room in which the canisters were stored.
“Over time, however, the canisters have begun to react chemically with the human ashes held inside them; this has thus created mold-like mineral outgrowths on the exterior surfaces of these otherwise gleaming cylinders.
“In order to deal with the fragility of the objects, and to respect their funerary origins, Maisel set up a temporary photography studio inside the hospital itself. There, he began photographing the canisters one by one.
“He soon realized that they looked almost earthlike, terrestrial: green and blue coastal forms and island landscapes outlined against a black background. But it was all mineralogy: terrains of rare elements self-reacting in the dark.”
Incredible story, as documented in Library of Dust, by David Maisel and Geoff Manaugh.