Thomas Condon, artist-photographer

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Date: 2002

Region: North America

Subject: Political/Economic/Social Opinion

Medium: Photography


Artist: Thomas Condon

Confronting Bodies: Cincinnati public authorities

Date of Action: April 2002

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

Description of Artwork: In 2000 and 2001 Thomas Condon, a 30-year-old commercial photographer and artist, was making a training video in the Cincinnati morgue, while there, he also worked on his private art project on the cycle of life and death. Condon had been working on this project for several years. It included images of childbirth, as well as portraits of babies and young children. Dead bodies were photographed with objects on or close to them: an apple, a music score, a snail shell, a key, a toy ladder.

The Incident: A lab worker who was developing the negatives of the photos notified the police. Condon’s studio was searched; his photographs were confiscated. Subsequently the confiscated photographs appeared in the media causing community outrage. In 2001 Condon was convicted on criminal charges of “corpse abuse.” In Ohio, corpse abuse is vaguely defined as “treating a corpse in a manner that would outrage reasonable community sensibilities”. Now an artist is actually serving a two and a half year sentence in medium security prison on charges of corpse abuse for taking photographs in a morgue.

Results of Incident: Condon served about a year and a half of his sentence before being release while awaiting his appeal.

National Coalition Against Censorship has released an official protest against the criminalization of the photographer who "neither had criminal intent, nor did he cause harm to anybody. Regardless of whether or not he obtained formal permission, a photographer taking pictures does not belong in the same category as a criminal dismembering his victims."

Source: NCAC; http://triggermagazine.com/2005/07/wide-open.html;