The Psychological Horror of Corpus Vertebrae

All images by Corpus Vertebrae. Used with permission.

To Corpus Vertebrae color imagery has too much going on, “infantile and chaotic” were her exact words to describe the medium. ”Black and white is more powerful, but also peaceful, mystical, and full of silence,” she says. Her work, as seen through her extensive portfolio on Behance, looks like something straight out of an episode of American Horror Story, combining modern photography techniques with old horror staples to blend this unique mixture of art and horror.

To Ms. Vertebrae the process of creating this horrific art is one of therapy for her, it helps her to cope with depression and anxiety, to move beyond her fears and accept herself. But more than that, her art has helped her connect with other troubled souls – where she has found that it help them in some way as well.








“Art is a therapy for me. I also want people to be more conscious about mental disorders and have more knowledge. I’m getting some really beautiful messages from people who say that they understand how do I feel or that by my works I’ve ‘told’ them something they didn’t know. It means a lot to me.” Ms. Vertebrae says, noting that it’s a connection she often can’t share with those close to her, making it all the more rewarding for her to share these things with others through her art.

Turpism, Naturalism, Macabre, Surreal art. These are what inspire Ms. Vertebrae to create, though, that may seem somewhat obvious to you as you are reading this and experiencing her imagery first hand. Macabre, for example, is a particularly gruesome niche of art where death or violence are depicted in a way specifically designed to frighten and make the viewers uncomfortable. You can see the inspiration of these art genres throughout Ms. Vertebrae’s work, it’s uncomfortable, it’s weird, its graphic – yet you can’t look away, because in its own, somewhat twisted way, it’s also beautiful and connects with you on a deeper level than the disturbing depictions you see on the face of it.


Ms. Vertebrae started taking pictures when she was 16, though she says it wasn’t much to speak of. It wasn’t until she had a sort of epiphany or another way you may put it is a light bulb went off, opening her consciousness to these themes and ideas – allowing her to really blossom as an artist. Still, as with many photographers and artists, Ms. Vertebrae struggles with accepting her own work, often finding it lacking. “I can say that I find my works (some self-portraits) from last and this year to be pretty good, the rest of it – it depends. I always feel that it’s not enough. For this time, which was tough for me in my private life…” she says.

Of particular interest, Ms. Vertebrae’s self-portraits offer what could maybe be called the deepest look into her psyche. Many of these images depicting her body with interesting mutilations, or superimposed bones, or other elements of this horror/supernatural genre. Interestingly enough, though, she says that most of her work is improvised, thought and shot in the moment without much – if any – pre-planning or setup. This has led to a more authentic feel to the images, they aren’t over posed or extravagantly garnished with props and wardrobe. It is just a moment in time, a thought, a feeling, an emotion captured in a unique way. Through the eyes and vision of Corpus Vertebrae.


“To be honest I usually improvise. Even if I’m about to take pictures with snakes. I don’t need and don’t want to create any special prospect or write down what I want to do. I have it inside of my head. I just need the right person and the right place.” she says of her creative and artistic process, which differs greatly from the common process taught in workshops and classrooms across the globe.

But this unique process and her unique workflow is part of what helps set her work apart. “I also don’t prepare myself in any special way to take self-portraits. I usually take them when I feel like a piece of sh*t.” Ms. Vertebrae states in her explanation of her process. In history, some of the world’s greatest art has come from its most troubled minds, so it is not all too surprising to hear that she feels like she does her best work when she is feeling her insecurities and depression and anxieties the most.

One aspect of this work that may surprise you is how simple the gear and software involved is. Ms. Vertebrae tells La Noir Image that her kit consists of a basic Canon DSLR and a 50mm lens, that is it. No bag of lenses or 12 light setups, just your average DSLR and a 50mm lens. In terms of software and post processing, that too is very simple – just Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, nothing fancy about it. But then, having read this much about Ms. Vertebrae and her work, that may not surprise you at all.


When it comes time to process her images Ms. Vertebrae says she often just sits in front of her computer at night, trying new things, and improvising without much clear direction in regards to where she wants to take a given image. She sort of lets her emotions and state of mind at the time take her and the image wherever it goes.

Inspired. Feared. Misunderstood. Corpus Vertebrae’s imagery speaks to each of us differently, pulling at emotional strings we didn’t even know that we had, simultaneously opening our consciousness while healing hers.

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Anthony Thurston

Anthony is a Portland, Oregon based Boudoir Photographer specializing in a dark, moody style that promotes female body positivity, empowerment, and sexuality. Besides The Phoblographer, he also reviews gear and produces his own educational content on his website.