Frontier Former Editor

April 11, 2008

On mortality

Filed under: God, humanism — Tags: , — Frontier Former Editor @ 2:46 pm

One can laugh and laugh, and then something like this comes along:

The Guardian, Tuesday April 1 2008

The German photographer Walter Schels thinks it not only odd, but wrong that death is so hidden from view. Aged 72, he’s also keenly aware that his own death is getting closer. Which is why, a few years ago, he embarked on a bizarre project. He decided to shoot a series of portraits of people both before and after they had died. The result is a collection of photographs of 24 people – ranging from a baby of 17 months to a man of 83 – that goes on show in London next week. Alongside the portraits are the stories of the individuals concerned, penned by Beate Lakotta, Schels’ partner, who spent time with the subjects in their final days and who listened as they told her how it felt to be nearing the end of their lives.

Photos here


  1. Excellent post. For a sec I thought this was another depressing German cannibal consensually eats man story.

    This passage, however, strikes me as particular gloomy:

    But, horrifying though photographing the bodies was, more shocking still for Schels and Lakotta was the sense of loneliness and isolation they discovered in their subjects during the before-death shoots. “Of course we got to know these people because we visited them in the hospices and we talked about our project, and they talked to us about their lives and about how they felt about dying,” explains Lakotta. “And what we realised was how alone they almost always were. They had friends and relatives, but those friends and relatives were increasingly distant from them because they were refusing to engage with the reality of the situation. So they’d come in and visit, but they’d talk about how their loved one would soon be feeling better, or how they’d be home soon, or how they’d be back at work in no time. And the dying people were saying to us that this made them feel not only isolated, but also hurt. They felt they were unconnected to the people they most wanted to feel close to, because these people refused to acknowledge the fact that they were dying, and that the end was near.”

    Comment by Stiletto — April 11, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  2. Gloomy? The thought of dying alone is about as frightening as it gets.

    Comment by Frontier Former Editor — April 11, 2008 @ 11:43 pm

  3. Would that be dying alone or dying, alone?

    Comment by Stiletto — April 11, 2008 @ 11:48 pm

  4. Hemingway-ian punctuation may make it more noble, but no less frightening.

    Comment by Frontier Former Editor — April 11, 2008 @ 11:51 pm

  5. I was moved to blog about this too when I came across a Guardian article last weekend that was about the public reaction to the original Moorhead article.

    I should have also linked to that second article, and now I can’t find it.

    Yeah, I agree that dying alone is about as frightening as it gets.

    Comment by azahar — April 12, 2008 @ 2:55 am

  6. So was that the point of those photos? I was under the impression that half these people were physically, not just emotionally, alone.

    Comment by Stiletto — April 12, 2008 @ 10:48 am

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