On April 30, 1997 J.T. Colfax was arrested when he attempted to walk out of a Safeway Photo Processing store without paying for the rolls of photos he picked up. The photos turned out to be pictures of corpses with signs attached with phrases such as, "Getting Fired Isn't the End of the World," "Yee Haw," and "Happy Birthday." Colfax took took photos of a corpse with party favors. The photos are artworks, JT said.
May 22, 1997, from the article, "A Body of Work" by By Patricia Calhoun:
"Within minutes Colfax was surrounded by Denver cops, who looked through his photos--the corpse with the noisemaker in her mouth, the casket being hoisted on a DIA forklift--and threw him in jail for three days. On May 7 he was formally charged with "abuse of a corpse"--charged not by Denver, but in Littleton and Englewood, where two of the mortuaries in his pictures are located. "Naturally," he says, "I'm glad that Denver isn't charging me, but it irks me when I see the Denver Police Department lie to the press in saying no photos were taken in Denver."
"Most of Colfax's morgue shots wound up in his collection, which dates back to his days in L.A. "I was collecting all kinds of material, although I wasn't exactly sure what I would do with it," he says. "I was collecting everything I could get while I could." The array that spills out of his bag includes a 1997 Cadillac calendar that touts hearse models, casket catalogues--"those are just full of lies," he says, "like about the durability of caskets"--and route sheets that show the "average body is worth $13." And photos, lots of photos. Some of the snapshots are relatively harmless--a casket showing through the van doors on a lonely mountain road. Some are not: the photograph of the corpse with a hand-lettered "Happy Birthday" sign by his head, for example. Or pictures of crematoriums. Or a gruesome photo of a corpse on a meat hook (which is how they were stored in one California med center, according to Colfax). He says a tabloid would pay $25,000 for that one."
FROM THE COLFAX DIARIES:
Colfax Jail Diary: June 2, 1999
"Every few days I send the credit card company a lettle check. Ten dollars, 25 dollars, whatever I could scare up. I was determined to erase the bitter Vancouver financial damage ($3000). So den long 'bouts dis time comes the big FIDDY YEARS burfday pawty for my brudda in law. See. And one of my seesters she tell me dat she bakin' eine TOMBSTONE shaped cake fo rde joke of de okayshun. See."
"So I snatches up one o dem cardboard cameras form de sto. 'Cuz it seems it wouldn't be fittin' to BUY sumpin' tacky (I should have thought) since I done just had a bus ticket and other money from dis here brudder in law and his wife, my seester. And udder 'spences like many time befo. So, I decies I'll make the rarest oddest thing. I'll make a sort of collage of photos ain nobody else can get. And dats what I done too. And dare fo the very foist coprse photos de done say, "Happy Birthday." I also done made signs and placed them in places WITOUT corpses but along my trabbles wid corpses. See."
"Like I recall bein' in Rawlins, Wyoming and putting headline signs in de newspaper boxes dare about my brudder in laws birthday and takin' de pitchers of the newsboxes as they sit in that god forsaken windswept town. And dis is WHY I used the name Jake "RAWLINS" when I put the films in for developing. It was just on my mind. And so I got at least ONE set of photos outta' the Safeway supermarket wid no problems for I sho nuf did show up at my sister and her husbands house dat day with a collage of corpse burfday photos. I remember too that new corpses frought me ALL the way that day."
"I was late because I naturally got a million hospital calls on this one day I had something to do. Well--the pushing up duh daisys Tombstone cake is one thing but corpse photos--what was I thinking? It did NOT go over good. If ONLY it coulda had a chance to just fade away but it weren't but a week or so before I got busted and all hell broke loose. And dats when I heard them, right after dat, that's when ROUN DU CORNER come flying duh Ramsey but, and the wheels on it, well, they were going round and round."