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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It all Comes Down to Two Things

Life and death.

Out of Germany—photographer Walter Schels and project partner and journalist Beate Lakotta have put together something extremely special and unique.

The two recorded interviews via story and photograph of people who were in their last days of life and then . . . took more photographs of the participants shortly after their death.

Their exhibit "Life Before Death" is currently on display in London but you can get a sneak peek here.

Wait, before you click : : :

Don’t just scan this site. Really. It is not one of those things you can peruse like a People magazine. If you click on the link, make sure you have a few minutes to invest.

This blew my mind.

If you don’t know much about Schels, you can read a great short bio here. Walter Schels is a world renowned photographer.

Nature Network’s site printed a very telling quote from Schels regarding his passion for photography of the human face. I love how he articulates the story of the onset of his passion.

“I was born in Landshut, Bavaria, in 1936. In the early 1950s I earned my living as a window dresser in Barcelona, Toronto and Geneva. In 1966 I went to New York to become a photographer; I returned to Germany in 1970 and worked in advertising and for various magazines. In 1975 I had a milestone experience, when I was asked to document births for a parenting magazine. That’s when I saw the face of a newborn child for the first time. But it wasn’t a faceless being – it had an aged, knowing face with a past. Since that time, I have developed an increasing fascination with faces and portraiture.”

Beate Lakotta is the journalist who worked along side Schels for this project. They spent a year in hospices for the terminally ill and got the permission of 24 individuals to tell their picture-stories. Lakotta is quoted as saying, "We all know that we are going to die one day, but it is very difficult to believe that it will really happen to us. Our motivation for this project was to overcome our own fear of facing up to death. The project goes some way to explore this."

There isn’t a lot of navigation instruction at the site and though it is easy to catch on, I will give you a tip. The black and white photos scan left to right before death/after death. The stories of the participants are on the right hand side of the page.

Art is conversation. Dialogue. Tension. Mediation.

How can this project and projects like it stir spiritual conversation with our friends and family? How might we embrace this project in our churches? What kind of conversation could we have with our children over this project? Who will host this exhibition at their church?

This post is part of the creative collective Watercooler Wednesday which is making a name for itself. Have you joined the conversation?

Thanks to Peter Rollins for my first exposure to the photography.


Jim Drake said...


Great post. Kinda ties into mine today about FUNERALS (hmmm? why are we thinking about death?)

Thanks for scoping out the great stuff on the net for us. I'm always amazed where you find these things.