Cathrine Ertmann Confronts Death With Her Powerful Photo Essay From the Morgue

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Andres Serrano’s Powerful Images Of Death

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The Morgue (Infectious Pneumonia)

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The Morgue (Pneumonia drowning)

The Morgue (Death Unknown)

The Morgue (Death Unknown)

Artist Andres Serrano‘s series of photographs The Morgue investigates ideas of death and our relationship with it.  Working with a forensic pathologist Serrano photographed the bodies with a near classical beauty rarely associated with the morgue.  Serrano ensured the anonymity of each person through tight cropping or veiling the face.  The way in which the light interacts with the bodies and their veils is reminiscent of Italian baroque painting.  The chiaroscuro of each photograph seems to underscore some mystery behind death balancing the morgue’s comparatively cold analytic approach.  Further, the careful attention to detail and composition dignifies each person.  Each subject, some actually unknown persons, are considered individually as initial shock gives way to contemplation and reflection.  However, these are not sentimental images.  There still remains a certain emotional detachment, a terrible loneliness in death, and Serrano’s intention is ambiguous.  Each photograph’s title is each subject’s respective cause of death, and have been inserted in each photographs’ caption.  Also, please note: Some may consider these photographs to be graphic and/or disturbing.  (via boum!bang!)

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