Texas State University's Body Farm (AKA Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University or FACTS) is a 45-year-old facility where the corpses of medical body donors are left to decompose so that researchers can observe the rate at which human remains are consumed by the elements, scavengers and microbes, allowing them to accurately date the bodies of murder victims and those who died accidentally.
Photographer Robert Shults created a series of images of the Body Farm, called "The Washing Away of Wrongs," attempting to document the lives of the workers and the deaths of the volunteers "without sensationalizing this often gruesome work."
The photos are beautiful, haunting, and often disturbing, but Shults has managed to steer clear of sensationalization. Though these are not for the faint of heart, they are well worth a look.
“I spent essentially every in-session day for about a year at the center, sat in on classes, took a few myself, accompanied the graduate students on donation pickups and forensic cases, and basically went everywhere they went,” Shults told Hyperallergic. The photographs in the series, named for the oldest-known forensic scientific text, a 13th-century Chinese coroners’ book by Song Ci, were taken between 2015 and 2016. Selections were shared earlier this year by the New York Times and Wired, and you can find the full portfolio on his website (although be warned that some photographs are more graphic than those in this post). Shults explained that he’s now developing text in collaboration with a couple of anthropologists for a future book.
The Washing Away of Wrongs [Robert Shults]
Photographs from the World’s Largest Human Decomposition Center
(via We Make Money Not Art)