Human Being, 009_Colorado Springs, CO, 2000

by Andrea Modica

8 x 10 in Contact Platinum Print

3,575.00 USD $5,575.00 USD $


International: $75 USD

We offer framing service on demand, please contact us for a quote.
Framed orders can only be shipped within Quebec, Canada.
About The Work

*Anthropological Descriptions by J. Michael Hoffman, MD, Phd

In October of 1999 Andrea had just moved to Colorado after a lifetime on the east coast. She left behind the places and geography that was familiar to her. Above all, she left behind all the things she had chosen to photograph. It was an unfathomable landscape. In some sense, she felt unable to see.

In the midst of these adjustments, Modica read the following headline in the local newspaper: “Hundreds of Skeletons Found at State Hospital.” She began to experience a feeling she often has in the presence of a possible new subject. She calls it lust because she can’t think of another word to describe the mixture of desire, anticipation, and fear that the possibility of a photograph inspires.

According to the newspaper article, a graveyard had been unearthed on the grounds of the Colorado Mental Health Institute. It was the second time this had occurred. In 1992, the first graveyard was discovered during an excavation conducted by prison inmates, under the supervision of county and state of officials. They were breaking ground for an addition to the hospital for the criminally insane. A century ago, the facility was called the Colorado Insane Asylum, and the people who were buried on these grounds were those whose bodies had gone unclaimed and their burials unrecorded. They were likely buried there to save money because the city charged for burial in its cemetery. As Andrea read the article, she became increasingly preoccupied with who these people were. Michael Hoffman, a forensic anthropologist at Colorado College, who is studying the remains, offered the beginning of an answer. They were mostly males, and many of them had suffered from syphilis, a disease whose complications can include dementia and paralysis. It made sense they would have ended up at the asylum or gone unclaimed after their deaths as a result of anonymity or family shame. To the anthropologist, however, the bones told much more, about lives that were difficult, dangerous, and full of pain. Andrea imagined their lives as cowboys and prospectors; imagined their labor, and their whorehouse pleasures. In her mind, they were very far from home. She wanted to see them.

She was taken to a locked room, lined with long cardboard boxes, each filled with the meticulously cleaned and catalogued remains of a single human being. Within each box lay a smaller box containing the skull of the person. Some of the skulls were nearly intact. A few had been taped or glued back together by Professor Hoffman and his students. These objects, with their dark hollows, seemed to Andrea to be reliquaries, memorial vessels.

Professor Hoffman allowed Modica to spend the better part of a year in his laboratory. She worked with her 8 x 10 camera and available light, from a row of windows and overhead fluorescent fixtures.

“It seemed right to me that the skulls should be set on their boxes, that they should not be removed from the context in which I had encountered them and that ordinary cardboard should form their pedestals. It took me a long time to grasp fully what was in front of me. I grew up in a Catholic culture in which viewing and being in the presence of the dead at wakes was expected, and I had spent considerable time looking at skeletal remains in the catacombs of Rome and Palermo. This was familiar territory. And yet most of the early pictures I made in Dr. Hoffman’s lab were disappointing, pictures a tourist might take. The more time I spent with these objects, however, the more their individuality began to assert itself. Paradoxically, the skulls became more human, more moving as my photographs became more formal, more precise. Or perhaps it was the other way around.”


The work of Andrea Modica is the result of a hand-coated platinum process method performed by the artist herself in her darkroom. Andrea uses a large camera that produces 8×10 in negatives that she processes into platinum palladium prints by contact. Printed on transparent vellum paper or graphic layout paper, trimmed and then affixed to an 11×14 inches archival drawing paper, some prints are unmasked, though most are masked (unmasked prints show the brush marks). Some prints are mounted to the substrata and some are tipped into an 11×14 inches paper. These variations depend on when the print or the body of work was made.

Each photograph is unique, created as part of a meticulous technic used in the 19th century and guaranteeing a life span of a thousand years. The hand-coated platinum process nevertheless promises rich tones and spectacular and unique photographs.

“Because specificity of description is part of what photography’s always been about for me. It’s one of the reasons I started working with the big camera and making platinum prints.” Andrea Modica


Print Information


All prints are Digital Pigment prints on museum-quality acid-free papers such as Museum Etching, Canson Rag and Arches Velin. These papers are designed to meet galleries and museum longevity requirements and ensure consistency of shades 200 years old. The choice of paper is suggested by the Photographer according to his or her preferences.


All prints are Digital Pigment Prints using the latest top of the line technology, archival high dynamic inks and 200 years old life paper.


NO! Our prints are on standard paper sizes and we don’t alter the image size and proportions to fit the paper. Each print has a minimum of 0.5 inch white border. This is an artistic decision that belongs to the artist. Margins don’t normally exceed 2-4 inches on each side depending on the final paper size.

Artist Bio

Andrea Modica was born in New York City and lives in Philadelphia, where she works as a photographer and teaches at Drexel University & the International Center of Photography. She is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Fulbright Scholar and a Knight Award recipient.

Andrea is a master photographer, with projects that explore all aspects of the photo terrain, including landscape, still life, even baseball, but her elegant and sensitive portraiture, captured with the slowed down methodology of large format, created as platinum prints, have an exquisite language and beauty that sets her work apart.

The subjects in Andrea’s photographs are tangled in a brilliantly organized web of focus shifting, obscured and stretched elements and open-ended narratives where fact and fiction collide and blur. The full activity of every frame is never entirely revealed, but it is never completely concealed either. It all feels buried in the multiple layers and tones of the images that Modica produces. This makes the us actively trying to grasp and understand what we sees through those layers in order to demystify this ominous veil of meanings and juxtapositions that the artist creates so beautifully. The fact that Modica’s work is about subjects that are both familiar and unfamiliar to her shows the fragile balance between uncertainty and caution, anticipation and hope in her work. It is this masterful ability to pull the viewer closer while creating this ambiguous tension in her work that distinguishes her.

Modica’s corpus brings us to a place where things are slightly askew, never really acknowledging what is and what is not. What’s presented to us leaves a certain impression of “déjà-vu” and yet can’t help us question the deeply intimate and mysterious elements of her work that aren’t quite disclosed. Modica creates images that reaches into our own fragility. The result of her approach to portrait and photography is one that is unique, unsettling and timeless, with a ghostly aura Modica’s platinum imagery will continue to fascinates for generations to come.

Modica’s photographs have been featured in many publications, including the New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, Newsweek and American Photo. Her books include Treadwell, Barbara, Minor League, Human Being, Fountain, As We Wait, January 1 and most recently, Lentini.

Modica has exhibited extensively and has had solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art and the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts.

Her photographs are part of the permanent collections of numerous institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, the International Museum of Photography and Film at the George Eastman House, and the Bibliotheque Nationale.

All of Modica’s photographs are made with an 8X10” view camera using Kodak Tri-x film. All platinum prints* are produced, utilizing the non-silver,19th century hand-coated platinum process, proven to be unequivocally archival, rich and beautiful.
Each print is made manually by Andrea in a dimly lit room, from an 8×10 negative, using the same chemistry that was used in the 1800’s.

*Platinum prints have an estimate life span of a 1000 years

Sign up to our newsletter and get 10% off!

Stay in the know

Privacy Preference Center