Muscular stiffening begins between four and twelve hours after death. It starts in the neck and makes movement of the limbs impossible. When it reaches the scalp, it can make the dead body’s hair rise. Like goose bumps on the living.
His breast isn’t moving. The cells in his body have carried out the last of their work, the mechanisms have come to a halt and he is now not going to get any older.
In the chapel of the Pathological Institute of Aarhus University Hospital, the dead are received. Here they are dressed in clothes, their hair is combed and they are laid in the coffin, before we can say our last goodbye to those we have lost.
Here are lying women and men, girls and boys on ice, because they were careless, because they were unlucky, or because their time was come. This woman was found dead in her home. She has just been through an autopsy, which confirmed that she didn’t die the victim of a crime. Soon her body will be dressed and laid in the coffin.
These photos of the dead are purposefully anonymous. In “About Dying” Danish photographer Catherine Ertmann was aiming for the universality of death rather than the stories of these particular dead. And that’s what makes this series so moving. In photographing the dead so intimately, bare of everything, including their life stories, she has made room for the viewer in the morgue—as observer and as deceased. Who doesn’t project themselves into the sewn torso, the half-clenched hand, the freckled cheek? Will it be the zipped bag or the fiery crematorium in the end? How can we live fully if we can’t look at death?
“This project tries to break down the taboo by showing something we rarely have access to, and that death can be both hard to look an but also beautiful. Just like when a new life comes into the world when a woman is giving birth. It deals with the incomprehensible fact that life ends and hopefully remind the audience that our time here is precious and what things really matter while we are here.”
This project was approved by Aarhus Universitets Hospital (University Hospital of Aarhus, Denmark), where she and journalist Lise Hornung worked.
The only complete certainty in life is that one day we will die. It is the most certain thing in the world, and the biggest uncertainty we experience of the world, because nobody can say what will happen afterwards. Maybe that is why we find it so difficult to speak about death.
When photographer Jennifer Loeber’s mother died, Loeber began to photograph her belongs as a way of coping with her grief. She matched her photos with vintage pictures that her father had taken of her mother and posted the pairs on Instagram. The resulting series, “Left Behind,” is a poignant memorial, both deeply personal and universal.
The everyday objects that remain when loved one dies become an instant museum of sorts, freezing that person in time. A favorite pearl ring will never be replaced by a diamond; an unmatched glove will never be matched to its mate. A used lipstick, valueless in itself, becomes a cherished object, chosen and applied by the person so missed. Many times these everyday objects are the most touching and the most difficult to dispose of.
“I found myself deeply overwhelmed by the need to keep even the most mundane of my Mom’s belongings when she died suddenly this past February. Instead of providing comfort and good memories they became a source of deep sadness and anxiety and I knew the only way I would be able to move past that was to focus on a way to interact with them cathartically. I had recently become active on Instagram and realized that utilizing the casual aspects of sharing on the app was a way to diminish my own sentimentality towards the objects my Mom left behind.”
Reframing the objects allowed Loeber to experience them without searing grief. Instead of the items feeling haunted, they became imbued by fond memories of her mother’s life. By matching them with her father’s photos she was able to make a fitting memorial to her mother, one that was less about personal pain than about remembrance.
“My dad refused to hold a traditional funeral service because he and I believe you should celebrate a life, not mourn it. I’m sure this body of work falls in line with that concept.” (Source)
A beautiful car crash. A lovely death. Chilean artist Fernando Gomez Balbontin paints haunted and haunting scenes in his series “Thoughts About Life and Death.” The subject matter is difficult, though not gory. Crumpled cars rest on roadsides, smashed and crushed beyond repair—these can’t be anything but fatal crashes. The figures next to the devastated vehicles are often otherworldly. A seeming specter of death wears a dark hood. Girls’ faces are obscured with blobs and blotches of color. Is it blood? It’s impossible to be sure. A priest stands next to one ruined car, the pope another. A man flees the scene.
Yet there’s beauty among the wreckage. The colors are often candy bright. A geometric structure floats, untethered, dripping in a way that’s reminiscent of tears, or blood. There are lots of these drippings in the works, adding an organic element to the mechanized disasters.
Balbontin paints the loveliest skies—peach and purple, cyan and gold. Nothing should go wrong underneath those skies, and yet…
“Denying death is denying life. So perhaps it is necessary to understand that tragedy is not the supposedly reality of death. Tragedy is about not accepting this possibility and consequently, not having enough time to live.”
Often treading between reverence and ridicule, the mystifying allure of art that reiterates sexual transgression remains suspended within a deviating purgatory of the sacred and the obscene. Buoyantly drifting within the underbelly of normative culture, the erotic and transgressive create a synergetic relationship in a strike against societal conventions. Through a crude presentation of social perversions, the atmosphere created through sexually transgressive art permits an insight that challenges not only sexual precepts, but invites a critique of human behavior irrevocably influenced by social structures. In an explosive resurgence of suppressed sexual impulses, the following artists create frantic, tense and exquisitely obscene renderings of deviations and sexualized social distortions.
There is an undeniable sense of morbidity that pervades Czech artist Monika Horčicová’s meticulous replicas of skeletal parts, but to call them simply morbid is to take away from their staggering beauty. Fused together and crafted through cutting edge 3D-printing technology and polyester resin casts, Horčicová merges bones into everything from running wheel-like statues to kaleidoscopic patchworks, each piece rooted in a mesmerizingly acute understanding of our complex skeletal system. Originally from Prague, Horčicová now lives in Brno where she attends the Faculty of Fine Arts at Brno University of Technology. The mathematical arrangements in Horčicová’s pieces, where hip bones can merge perfectly into an open fan of legs and ribcages fit snugly within one another, serve as surreal reminders of the deeply complicated framework that makes up each of our bodies.
Some of Horčicová’s pieces also stand as signifiers of mortality, such as Relikviář, in which 3D-printed pelvises, skulls and more are packed into neat boxes within a black metal display case. Here, they assume a more medical, typified presence, as most bones do when under examination and study, as Horčicová makes clear in her exquisite reproduction. The mutated forms Horčicová’s skeletal constructions take on are mesmerizing and vivid reminders of our own mortality, presented brilliantly within a cycle of infinite possibility.
For her series Natura Morta, the Russian photographer Maria Ionova-Gribina gives burials to dead animals. Much like fellow artist Emma Kiesel, she finds her deceased subjects abandoned on roadsides. Biking to the sea in summer, she was confronted with roadkill and creatures who had died of natural causes.
Where most might avert their eyes, she examined the called bodies, adorning them with fresh blossoms tenderly picked from her own garden or nearby flower beds. Yet she does not remove or bury the remains; instead, she allows the process of photographing them to stand in for funerary rites, poignantly preserving them in her lens instead of in the earth.
After having these powerful post-mortem portraits taken, the animals are once again vulnerable to the decay and ravages of death, but in this single magnificent instant, their humble yet miraculous existences are celebrated and revered. Juxtaposed against bloodied muzzles, open wounds and limbed stiffened by death are ripe, vibrant flowers symbolizing life and rebirth. On these breathtaking beds of pink, blue, and deep red hues, the creatures appear to be simply sleeping.
Over these dead bodies, we are invited to mourn the individual as well as the fact of our own lost innocence. The series itself is inspired by Ionova-Gribina’s childhood, when she and her brother would bury dead animals they discovered in their paths. Where the adult gaze scans over reminders of death, perhaps the child’s engages with them, and grieves the inevitable hold of mortality. Take a look. (via Feature Shoot)
At the end of life: a camera lens, desperately recording and archiving the fears of the dying. For the series Life Before Death, the photographer Walter Schels captures the terminally ill in anticipation of the unknown and again in the moment after death. These intimate portraits are the last of a lifetime, documenting the body after some ineffable human essence has vanished. Informed by the words gathered in interview with the subjects by Schels’s partner Beate Lakotta, the haunting shots imagine the invisible, giving form to the most unconquerable human fear.
Schels’s portraits, in their silvery black and white tones, are reminiscent of Victorian post-mortem photography, presenting the dead as if sleeping, their eyes closed and brows gone slack in seeming comfort. These images are poignantly juxtaposed with the interviews, conversations in which even the most mundane, peripheral things of daily life are assigned significance; beside wizened and terrified eyes and coupled with existential wonderings are thoughts on fridge-freezers and local football teams. The banal works against and in service of the tragic; when confronted with death, a burial site and a cup of coffee are equally potent reminders of our mortality.
At the turn of the 20th century, it was believed that the eye recorded the last sight seen by the dead, that with careful study of the ocular nerves, we might reconstruct the moment of death. Schels’s subjects, pictured with gleaming eyes and contained within unrelentingly tight frames, seem to stare into the viewer as they confront inevitable passing, as if to implicate us or to say, “You are the last thing I saw.” (via The Guardian)
New York based photographer Mike Mellia creates Another Day in Paradise, a series of images that capture the essence of New York City under the influence of Mellia’s father.
After the unexpected death of his dad, the photographer began creating cinematic scenes around New York that were reminiscent of his father’s life. Mellia is compelled to showcase his father’s contemplative presence and love for jazz . The many clues that reveal what his father was, and is to him even after death, are subtle but powerfully present.
Mellia’s sentimental piece works along the lines of alienation and tension, however. It not only provides a glimpse into his father’s life but it also showcases Mellia’s hardships to accept his passing.