Donna J. Wan’s Haunting Photos Of Suicide Destinations

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Photographer Donna J. Wan’s ongoing series “Death Wooed Us” is gorgeous, unsettling, and deeply empathetic. “In 2011 after the birth of my daughter I developed a severe case of postpartum depression and considered taking my own life,” she writes in the description of the work, all photos taken in “suicide destinations”—places where people have taken their lives.

“Using research gathered from media reports, I found several locations in the Bay Area and travelled to them. I walked along the paths taken by these people before they ended their lives. Most of these photographs were taken from bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most well-known ‘suicide destinations,’ but also lesser-known beaches and overlooks. I purposely photographed from the perspective of looking up at the sky, down at the water or crags, or straight ahead but far away, thinking that these views might have resembled the ones seen by others moments before dying. Many of my images have a hazy and elusive quality, which I believe reflects the clouded state of mind of the suicidal.”

Suicide is such a sensitive subject. There are many people—probably the majority of people—who cannot imagine losing the will to live. Whether because of religious beliefs, or ties to family and friends, or just the innate need to stay alive, these people believe that they would never end their own lives. Then there are others, who have lived with pain and grief and the loss of hope. Those who, because of sickness of body or brain, struggle through every day. Once you have crossed this line, between life at all costs and death as a merciful end, the world never looks the same to you again. In Wan’s series, her experience is what makes the photos haunting and peaceful. She has looked into the cracks of her own soul, and that has enabled her to walk in the footsteps of those without hope and capture their last sights with kindness. The last view of a suicidal person could be macabre, an intrusion into someone else’s pain. These photos offer beauty, the acknowledgement of despair, and the desire for peace.

“There are some who may think that my photographs romanticize these places of death. I can understand that point of view, although that is not my intention. Death is not beautiful – in fact, jumping from a bridge 200 feet high is a very painful and violent way to die. Yet the sublimity of these places continues to lure people to them. I do not intend for my work to glorify the allure of these places. Instead, I hope that it may offer a glimpse into the minds of those who may have thought that dying by these beautiful places was a peaceful way to end their suffering.”

(via feature shoot)

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Haunting Photographs Of Places Marked By Tragic Suicides

donna_j_wan_14Dumbarton Bridge, CA (#4)donna_j_wan_11Dumbarton Bridge, CA (#2)donna_j_wan_04Golden Gate Bridge, CA (#3)donna_j_wan_16Golden Gate Bridge, CA (#11)

This series from the landscape photographer Donna J. Wan might at first seem exhilarating, with its sweeping views of turquoise blue, frothy water; however, overlaid each magnificent seascape is the knowledge that tragic suicides have occurred in these exact spots. The artist, inspired by her own postpartum depression, names her body of work Death Wooed Us after a line from the poet Louise Gluck: “Death wooed us, by water, wooed us.”

Wan’s stunning images look startlingly like the work of of Caspar Davd Friedrich, whose dark romantic landscape paintings capture the spiritual bonds between human and nature. Friedrich, who is widely assumed to have suffered from depression, also used the shifting tides, colored with mist and fog, to express the lonesomeness of the human condition. Where the 19th century painter employed a human figure, his back facing the viewer, Wan leaves her bridges and overlooks painfully empty; any (wo)man who has sat and contemplated his (or her) life and death here has since departed.

Wan’s tragic photographs stretch endlessly to the edges of the frame, as if her somber landscapes could barely fit within a single shot. They alternate between vitality and utter silence; where some capture the bubbling surf and faraway beach-goers, others present the water fixed and frozen, still as a glass mirror. The materiality of the bodies of water is powerful; we can imagine their impact, cold and wet. Standing at the precipice, viewers feel the danger of the majestic waters; ultimately, we are compelled to turn away, the unforgettable image pressed into our mind’s eye. (via Feature Shoot)

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Haunting Photographs Of The Stains Left Behind By Victims Of Murder And Illness

1Seizure, Male, 25 years old 6Illness, Female, 60 years old 4Suicide with Gun, Male, 40 years old 3Heart Attack, Male, 50 years old (II)

The photographer Sarah Sudhoff traces the physical, bodily evidence left by the dead; for her project At the Hour of Our Death, she gives form to death and the unknown, shooting fabrics stained by the blood and fluids of the victims of murder, suicide, and illness. She follows these material reminders of dead, contaminated and removed from the scene, to a warehouse, where they wait to be disposed of; she knows not the names or identies of the dead, constructing strange and poignant narratives with only the colors and shapes left by their passing.

Shot under flood lights, the close-range photographs are rendered with astounding sharpness, resolution, and color. Aided by titles that only reveal the cause of death, gender, and the age of the deceased, the images veer into abstraction; accidental blood splatter mirrors the deliberate marks of abstract expressionist Jackson Pollack. Textured surfaces are saturated with the traces of the body, their delicate floral and lacy doily patterns colored by a permanent, irreversible reminder of our mortality. The empty, untouched space of the fabrics are assigned new meaning; like unfinished portions of a painted canvas, they stand in for the unknowable significance of a life lost.

These photographs force our eye to face the repulsion and terror we feel for the traumatized human body and the dead, transposing our invisible grief and fears onto jarringly beautiful, vividly textured tapestries. These are the physical and tangible marks of passing and loss; these are the quiet reminders of a life that exists no longer, a body that paradoxically cries out for our touch. (via Feature Shoot)

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