Life Before Death [ photography ]

 Some of us might consider this exhibition immoral because it invades the last moments of a human on earth. Whatever was your opinion, those faces tell a story.

Klara Behrens
age: 83
born: 2nd December 1920
first portrait taken: 6th February 2004
died: 3rd March 2004

Klara Behrens can tell that she hasn’t got much longer. “Sometimes, I do still hope that I’ll get better,” she says. “But then when I’m feeling really nauseous, I don’t want to carry on living. And I’d only just bought myself a new fridge-freezer! If I’d only known…”

It is the last day of February, the sun is shining, the first bluebells are flowering in the courtyard. “What I’d really like to do is to go outside, down to the River Elbe. To sit down on the stony bank and put my feet in the water. That’s what we used to do when we were children, when we went to gather wood down by the river. If I had my life over again, I’d do everything differently. I wouldn’t lug any wood around. But I wonder if it’s possible to have a second chance at life? I don’t think so. After all, you only believe what you see. And you can only see what is there. I’m not afraid of death. I’ll just be one of the million, billion grains of sand in the desert. The only thing that frightens me is the process of dying. You just don’t know what actually happens.”

about the project

The photographer Walter Schels and the journalist Beate Lakotta spent over a year preparing this exhibition in hospices in northern Germany. They made portraits of 26 people who were very close to death. The exhibition articulates the experiences, hopes and fears of the dying, and gives them one more opportunity to be heard.

drop by here to find more about the artists and the project.


One thought on “Life Before Death [ photography ]

  1. The project makes me think about early post-mortem photography – I get the same kind of uncanny feeling while looking at these portraits. I took a look around the authors’ website and saw a bit more of their work. These photographs tell sad stories, and I think their impact on viewers is mainly existential. Without becoming too cheesy, this project keeps on reminding me how ephemeral life is.

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