Death in Photography: What Is It to Live?

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Pablo Bartholomew, Dead Baby, Bhopal, 1984 (13.1986)

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Letizia Battaglia, Dead man lying on a garage ramp, 1977 (2007.24.11)

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Unidentified Photographer, [Body of Che Guevara], October 10, 1967 (2009.17.1)

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Weegee, ["Ruth Snyder Murder" wax display, Eden Musée, Coney Island, New York], ca. 1941 (7221.1993)

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Joel-Peter Witkin, Sanitarium, 1983 (236.1984)

Death and photography go hand in hand, the death of the soul, the birth of immortality. There will always remain a context for these images, however I have chosen to remove this, in a desire to create an over arching of the human condition. A photograph can function on so many planes that the fact of death seams impossible if only as a factual recording. But the recording itself creates a new life, an icon, and an object that speaks far more about life than the eventuality of death.

There are few that either have the availability, chance, or ability to create a functional object that speaks to the mass about our one common denominator.

Whether they are icons of disasters, revolution, or politics to formal compositions and the surreal they have an innate ability to inform us of the eventual but cannot show us what it is.

What can?

As Heidegger points out, the death of other is only understood through the eventual death of the self, it cannot be represented to be comprehensible outside of the self.

This is true. However, without representation of the fact of death, can we really comprehend the eventual?

This may seam bleak, listless, and removed from hope but these images–as disturbing as they may appear–are a celebration of what it is to live.

Cian O’Donoghue, ICP-Bard, 2013

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