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Understanding death


Permalink 11:54:00 by Sinwyn, Categories: Background

Understanding death

After last blog I started thinking about the artists I used. I know there are many more out there, but I used Sally Mann and Joel-Peter Witkin.

Witkin uses the corpses of John and Jane Does to adjust them and then makes pictures. Which are both gross and interesting at the same time, but I can't look at it too long cause I also think it's unrespectful to the dead.

Mann's photographs corpses that are given up for science. They lay on a body farm to decompose and to be a contribution to science with students learning from them and scientist finding new stuff by them decomposing under different circumstances.

This creates two whole different moods on the pictures. With Witkin's pictures it's like your invading in some serial killers basement, that makes weird pieces of art. While somehow Mann's photograph's are somewhat more serene. But not as serene as the Victorian post mortem pictures. They are laid out to look serene, to look alive. To be some kind of lie to the people that were left behind in the family.

This brings me to another photographer, Enrique Metinides. Born in Mexico to Greek immigrants, he started photographing for tabloids in 1949, when he was about 15 years old. He was the photographer for the 'bloody news'.

Metinides photographs the corpses just like they are when they just crashed, got murdered or anything else. He pretty much photographs them in their purest form if they didn't die in natural ways.

Even though he started as a photojournalist, he has made beautiful pictures of such tragic events. The colors (in the color pictures) are amazing. The photo tells a real story, it's not just a picture of a tragic event, it's so much more than that, cause he captured the right moment of the event. A moment where something is happening, a moment that shows a lot of emotion.

Metinides wasn't the only photojournalist that was later classified as art. A decade before Metinides started shooting pictures, a guy in New York was doing the same thing, his pseudonym was Weegee (the Great). He worked with the police, and selling his photographs to tabloids.  Weegee is known for changing the positions of the corpses to get the picture he wants to take. Which is different from Metinides.

Eventhough both these photographers didn't start to make art, I think their photo's contribute to the art world. They show how things we rather not look at, can be beautiful anyway. And especially the pictures of Metinides, you know what's on the picture, but somehow it mesmerizes you in such way that you can't stop looking at it.

The next artist I wanted to talk about is Maeve Berry, an Irish photographer. She made a series of photo's called Incandescence. In this series she photographs in a crematory, while corpses are being burnt, giving beautiful abstract images. Somehow this is very intimate cause you're in a place you normally wouldn't be able to come without being burnt yourself. Since the pictures are so abstract they don't feel like you're looking at a corpse being burnt to ashes. Here a few examples.

Somehow the pictures get a golden glow over them. Gold symbolizes wealth. So maybe the golden color of the pictures symbolize that this person had a good life. Or tries to indicate that. Maybe it was just the way the pictures turned out to be.

Even though these pictures are so abstract, it still feels like invading privacy cause it's so close up and personal. Another photographer that likes to be close up and personal is Andres Serrano.

Serrano has made numerous series, trying to shock the public. The Morgue is his series containing dead bodies. As the title of the works gives away, these pictures were taken in the morgue, some of them are very harmonious and serene and some are unpleasant to look at. The work is very honest. Nothing has been done to make the corpses look better. And the pictures often show discoloration.

The last picture, of the child, it reminds me of the Victorian pictures I started this research with. It looks sleeping, I know the child is deceased. It's tragic and beautiful at the same time. The picture is beautiful, the event is tragic. It brings me to the last artist I wanna describe in my blog.

Walter Schels, he captures the images of people shortly before death and after.  His series is called Life before Death. These people are alive to agree with the pictures before they die, giving it for me, a less uneasy feeling cause I know the person agreed with it. The pictures are taken in a beautiful respectful way, only their face is shown. They knew they were going to die, which gives the alive pictures more intense looks. Most people look directly into the camera. But I sense no sadness in their eyes. It almost looks like they have found peace in their fate.

You can really feel that Schels has tried to make the pictures as respectful as possible. You feel he felt with these people. I think this is a beautiful series of photographs. It's honest but respectful. These people died, but we wont forget them. It gives peace with the dead, unlike Witkin's pictures that just give you a feeling of nausea.

The question I was researching, "Why am I interested in death?" I still don't know the answer to it. I do know that I feel more interested in the respectful way of showing ones death. When celebrated life, death can be beautiful. Knowing we celebrate the life of that person, even if it was short. So, maybe my interest doesn't lay in death itself, but it lays in the life that comes before it. Death is just the end of something great, life. And maybe that's what I'm looking for, but I think it's too early to know that now. Maybe I don't wanna know the answer to my research question, cause it would mean I understand death.

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