Ransom Riggs's hobby is to collect "vernacular images of weddings and funerals, family vacations, backyard forts, first days of schools," pictures that have been "dumped into... communal graves of a sort." He especially likes how these gothic photos spring to life when accompanied by captions. Often a stranger's writing transforms the banality of the photo into something close to art: a blurred image of a rocky wall flanking a forlorn road is inscribed with this sentence: "Rock wall near Rose Bowl, Pasadena Cal where Dorothy found a Baby Girl on Jan 24, 1961."
Car accidents, infectious diseases and untimely deaths are recorded off-handedly, as if their very announcement keeps terror at bay. Tragic yet defiant, these captioned images represent a sustained dialogue between the dead and the living, evoking "I Died for Beauty" by Emily Dickinson: "And so, as kinsmen met a night/ We talked between the rooms/ Until the moss had reached our lips/ And covered up our names." --Thuy Dinh, editor, Da Mau magazine