richard cottingham and relating Forensic photograph’s to horror films

Richard Francis Cottingham is a serial killer from New Jersey operating in New York between 1977 and 1980. He was nicknamed ‘the torso killer’, due to his habit of dismembering his victims, usually leaving nothing but a torso behind. In one case, he dismembered two prostitutes in a motel room, taking the hands and heads with him before setting the room on fire. He was eventually convicted of murder in 1981 after being caught fleeing an attempted murder.[1] Several books have been written about him including The Torso Killer and “The Prostitute Murders” (ISBN 1-55817-518-0) both written by Rod Leith, a newspaper writer and local historian who had covered Cottingham’s case from the beginning. Officially Cottingham killed 5 people but he claims between 85 and 100 murders


With charcoal fingers i type my interest in Richard Cottingham serial killer. I found his victim photographs quite beautiful.

I think a lot of the visual interest i have with certain crime scene images than others lets say, is the easily transferable composition and lighting that leads itself into a painting or art piece. Looking back at Marlene Dumas in interviews she often describes her figures in the paintings as trapped in the walls of the frame, ‘the canvas becomes the coffin or grave of the figure.’ it interests me how the photographer frames the image within the photograph as well as the tonal quality of the light, often either from harsh lighting, or in the Cottingham images lit with natural light on black and white film.

The Ted Bundy series were highly saturated and full of colour, making them almost like a Pop art painting. Horror films like Daniel Argentos Suspiria or Brian De Palmas ‘Carrie’  made in the same decade, were using the bright and vivid colours to create a dreamlike new wave of arthouse horror to our screens. the photograph again turning this real life event seem  ‘unreal’ and dreamlike. Quite different from much earlier photographs when black and white gave a different more subtle ‘horror’ more gentle to that of maybe a Hitchcocks ‘Psycho’.

1 Response to “richard cottingham and relating Forensic photograph’s to horror films”

  1. 1 éridanne
    February 15, 2011 at 00:40

    “Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate”

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