For two and half years I worked as a master printer at a photography lab in Chicago that specialized in meeting the evidential and illustrative needs of lawyers, insurance agencies, and law enforcement – which is a fancy way of saying pictures of dead people.

Ten to twelve hours a day, five days a week, I custom printed, one by one, 80,000 unique negatives, both color and black and white, from snapshot to poster size murals, documenting in detail the unfortunate and tragic occurrences of modern life. I learned three things: never get in a car, stay away from trains, and never lean against anything.

Horsehead © James Luckett

After I conveyed some fascination for the cold and unknown profession of forensic photography, friend and photographer, James Luckett contacted me to tell me that he used to work in a lab specialising in the production of prints for various legal companies and civic departments.

While not prison photography, James dealt with the photography of crimes and accidents. The negatives he worked on could eventually send people to, or spares them of, prison. Equally, his prints as evidence likely helped secure millions in lawsuit damages.

James’ writing is dry, candid and the toll that this line of work eventually took should be enough for anyone to pause for thought. Highly recommended reading.

The image above is not from the lab. It is negative version of one of James’ own.

You should follow James’ idiosyncratic blog, consumptive. It has some of the best curated links of any blog out there. He doesn’t waste your time. Here’s a great portrait of how James may have looked when he worked at the lab. He’s got shorter hair now and might not thank me for pointing this one out! James’ Flickr stream is worth a look too.