Life Before Death

There is a really powerful article in the Guardian newspaper about the photography of German photographer Walter Schels and his partner Beate Lakotta.  He has interviewed people and taken their portraits before and after death.  It is a really powerful article that also makes you feel uncomfortable.  I recommend making it through all 22 paragraphs and photographs!


2 Responses

  1. An incredible article, Robb, thanks for posting the link. When my mum died, the funeral wasn’t until 9 days after her death and for the last 4 days, she resided in my sister’s conservatory, carefully and tastefully kitted out for the role. In thedepths of the British winter, conservatories are effective cold storage! Family and friends were able to pay respects and pop out to see mum if they so wished – not everyone is comfortable with dead bodies and that’s OK. I don’t relish it myself but having been there through her last days and death, the edge was taken off my discomfort. The undertaker visited regularly but after a bit, my sister took care of applying a bit of make-up if required and applied the curling tongs to mum’s hair – the undertaker would never have made it in an alternative career as hairdresser! 😆 I think it normalised the death for us and gave us all an opportunity to say farewell at our own pace. It brought death back into the bosom of the family, rather than leaving it to the impersonality of the chapel of rest.

    I actually think there is a beauty and a peace in some of the photos in the collection – some more than others.

  2. I think there is something peaceful about death. Western society has removed death from everyone’s lives and placed it into the hospital. We have clinicalised it and now it has become mystical and scary. People become superstitious about it.
    When I was in Uganda I was surprised to find that there are two kinds of coffin. In the cathedral the rich and famous people have American style open caskets. I had the ‘privilege’ of witnessing the marketing exercise that one of the big families turned their relatives demise into.

    “And now some words from the Mayor”

    “And now some words from the Bank”

    “And now some words from Elvis”

    The other kind of Ugandan coffin is a traditionally shaped wooden affair with one main difference – it has a pair of windows in it. The standard Ugandan funeral isn’t limited to turning up at the church and then leaving for five minutes at the graveside, it starts in the days leading up to it with the coffin and body in the house. People can grieve with their loved ones, talk to them, reminisce about them and cry with them. Then the funeral can be a celebration of their life and their continued journey with God.

    This is much the case with your heart-warming story. Thanks for sharing it.

    I think that the most telling comment on society is by Heiner Schmitz when talking about his friends:

    Heiner’s friends clearly didn’t want him to be sad and were trying to take his mind off things. They watched football with him just like they used to do: they brought in beers, cigarettes, had a bit of a party in the room. “Some of them even say ‘get well soon’ as they’re leaving; ‘hope you’re soon back on track, mate!’” says Heiner, wryly. “But no one asks me how I feel. Don’t they get it? I’m going to die!”

    I agree that some of the photos are easier to see than others.

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