• K8

    This is a beautiful tribute to the lives of these people. I hope this artist’s work will inspire more people to show such beauty and honesty, especially where we don’t normally expect to see it.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanmyrland susan m

    I was with my mother when she died, and photographed her — because it was the last time I would ever be able to take her picture. It’s true that it takes a long time for the image of the dead body to leave your mind, and it is hard to see someone you love be ravaged by disease. But eventually that image fades away and you remember how they looked when alive.

  • Cindy

    I think they’re beautiful pictures. You described the link very accurately, so people who aren’t comfortable looking at the pictures of the deceased shouldn’t click on the link- it’s that simple.

    Working in long-term care, I’ve had the opportunity be around deceased residents on several occasions. Before experiencing it, I thought being alone in a room with a dead body would be a nightmare, but it isn’t frightening at all if it’s a person who died of natural causes. I was grateful to have a moment to pay my respects privately.

  • http://www.avitable.com Avitable

    I already think you’re a chicken shit for closing comments on 99% of your posts. This just added to it.

  • http://zenmommasgarden.blogspot.com/ Zenmomma

    I found the pictures haunting and quite moving. I was with my brother when he died. It’s a life changing experience. As odd as it sounds, I am forever thankful that he allowed me that privilege. Birth and death are both messy, painful and in their own way… beautiful.

  • http://minkbabydotcom.blogspot.com Ali Harris

    I thought the pictures were wonderful and sad at the same time. I was riveted by them. I have no problem with your posting them at all. Thanks Heather!

  • Erin

    I’m speechless…this is beautiful and chilling. Thank you for posting this.

  • http://shallwechat.blogspot.com Abby

    Death is just as much a part of life as birth. Why hide it or pretend it doesn’t happen? Some of us have more experience with death than others so we’re all at different comfort levels with it. The after pictures, to me, show peace.

    While I disagree with Mimi I think I’d be more concerned if she’d had no response whatsoever. At least she feels *something*, right?

  • Melissa

    Just one more vote for you Heather.

    To see how people confront their own mortality was a point of view that I have never known or experienced. I liked the person who said that they had never appreciated life until diagnosed with a terminal disease.

    May we all learn to appreciate life without having to face terminal illness.

    Thanks Heather

  • Helen

    I thought these pictures along with the comments below each one about the people were beautiful and fascinating. And extremely peaceful. And real. Thank you for sharing the link, of something that i would otherwise have never seen.

  • Liz

    haunting and beautiful all at once and a reminder to get out there and live life now

    thanks Heather

  • Michelle

    My grandmother just passed away, on her ninety-first birthday. I have never experienced a natural death, a death from old age, and it was fascinating. I lost my fourteen-year-old brother in an accident many years ago, and it was heartbreaking and tragic. But my grandmother had lived a full life and she wanted to go.

    I was a little scared to see her, when I flew out to have that last visit. But she was beautiful. She had long, flowing white hair, and my aunts had her dressed in an old-fashioned, white cotton nightgown with a high neck and long sleeves. She looked like an angel. I stayed for a few days and had to go home.

    It was very, very hard to leave. The only way I can explain it, is to compare it to labor and childbirth. The room was filled with women, and we all sat around the bed, keeping her company. When I left, it felt like I had sat with someone in labor for two days and then had to leave before the birth. I felt very disappointed and wanted to stay, I wanted to see her as she left this world.

    I have a different view of death now.

  • DominEditrix

    Given that Heather only infrequently opens comments, it’s hardly a valid criticism that she initially didn’t for this post.

    Personally, I found the photos lovely – dignity given to a natural process that too often has none, voice given to those who would soon be silent. They reminded me of Swinburne’s “The Garden of Proserpine”:

    From too much love of living,
    From hope and fear set free,
    We thank with brief thanksgiving
    Whatever gods may be
    That no life lives for ever;
    That dead men rise up never;
    That even the weariest river
    Winds somewhere safe to sea.

  • chriss

    Perhaps it was the intimacy of the moments captured that frightened Mimi to the point of nausea. I have had the privilege (yes, the privilege) of being with two people I loved as the drew their last breaths. These were not happy moments but they were crucial moments in my life. As a journalist, I am exposed to some truly gut-wrenching photos and stories of death and mayhem. That is not the case with this exhibit. Yes some might be disturbed or uncomfortable with the photographs, but they are true to the experience and to the people pictured in my opinion.

  • http://combustingonions.blogspot.com Brennan

    I’m in awe of whoever took those photos. Not because they’ve got enough balls to actually do it, but to care enough about what people don’t usually see to make a project to make people wake up.

  • Smalltown Mom

    I thought they were touching, peaceful and beautiful

  • http://gracedavis.typepad.com GraceD

    Mimi is a childish name caller but she pushed you to open the comments. So, thanks Mimi. And, of course, thank you, Heather.

    Brilliant and brave photography. The gaspingly powerful portraits reminds me that we are souls with a body, not the other way around. It is clear that the soul just ups and leaves the body-shell; the empty heaviness is evident in the second portraits.

    You too are brilliant and brave, Heather.

    Many blessings to you and your family.

    Love,
    Grace Davis
    Santa Cruz, CA

  • Kelly Marie

    I thought the portraits were beautiful. This is my favourite message:

    “Gerda couldn’t believe that cancer was cheating her of her hard-earned retirement. “My whole life was nothing but work, work, work,” she told me. She had worked on the assembly line in a soap factory, and had brought up her children single-handedly. “Does it really have to happen now? Can’t death wait?” she sobbed”

  • Amanda

    Wow Heather thank you so much for putting these up. I think seeing these pictures were the kick in the arse that I needed to re-arrange a few things in my life.

  • Alyssa

    I thought that these were so beautiful and haunting at the same time. While I am only 20 years old, it is a hard realization that one day we will all get old and die, or, in some cases, die before we have the chance to grow old. These pictures made me want to reach out and touch the hands of those people. Though I believe in God and in Heaven, I also believe that we were put on this earth for the sole purpose of living to the fullest. So that’s what I plan to do.

    It’s incredibly moving, and I am glad I stumbled upon them on your page.

  • http://www.richmondstreet.typepad.com Heatherly

    I thought the photographs were very moving. I kept hoping that each death photo would be taken years after the life photo was presented. They were very peaceful … that’s what I liked most about them.
    Thank you for the link Heather. I may never had had the opportunity to view them otherwise.

    Heatherly

  • http://www.gorkyrises.com Gorky

    This is a great set. The second picture is not so much “dead” as “at peace”. Very moving. thanks.

  • http://www.backburnerprojects.com Fern

    Mimi apparently didn’t understand what “dead” meant. Mimi – chill out!

    This was an awesome series of portraits and a good daily dose of reality check.

  • Anonymous

    I do agree that I enjoy reading the comments when they are available, and sometimes miss the chance to comment because they are closed when I try.

    Thank you for this post Heather, it was amazing on so many levels.

  • LeFiffre

    Beautiful!

    America. We’re afraid of sex and death and all our humanity. It’s a good trip. Death is part of life.

    Just everyone read Henry Miller and some Buddhism and chill out.

  • http://www.blogapotamus.com blogapotamus

    It’s astonishing that anyone could be offended by portraits such as these. What ties us together more than our feelings towards our own mortality? I thought they showed the subjects an immense amount of dignity, both before and after death.

  • Lisa

    I’m a hospice nurse by way of the ICU, so I’ve seen my fair share of death in person…trust me when I say that while it is a very moving, individual, and even intimate experience to witness someone dying, “nauseating” is not a word that pops to mind.

    These pictures are beautiful and reminded me of my special patients/friends. Thank you!!

  • http://www.never-travelled.blogspot.com Daphne

    I didn’t think there was anything nauseating about these. I thought they were lovely photos and really interesting; I liked seeing the passage from alive to not-alive, and to see what’s left of a person once they’ve passed out of their body. They reminded me of the death-photos that used to be taken 100 years or so ago — peaceful and haunting but nothing sensational or scary.

    I didn’t see anything dark or ugly or upsetting about it. War photos are far more disturbing to me.

  • Anonymous

    not that interesting. people die every day. this isn’t new to us. some of them have interesting stories. this shouldn’t be new, either. reach out to people if it bugs you that they eventually kick the bucket. we’re all meat, after all.

  • Belinda

    I can’t see what was beautiful about the photos of the dead people – I think people have chosen to interpret these images in the same as we interpret any other art form, and the responses are a reflection/projection of what we want to see. We are afraid that the reality of death is in the main painful, prolonged, unhappy and scary and so we search for evidence of ‘Beauty’ ‘Peace’ ‘Release’ in images/faces of dead people to comfort ourselves. I think the people before looked like interesting character faces to photograph..and afterwards well they just looked dead…

  • Erin

    It was hard to breathe while I was looking at the pictures. I’m not sure why, because I had a persistent feeling throughout that life is the illusion and what comes after is so much greater.

  • http://sassypriscilla.typepad.com/ Miss Sassy

    Those photos didn’t scare me, I thought they were well done. The stories scared me. Poor people.

  • Karen

    I thought the pictures of the people after they died all looked so peaceful! Some of the ‘before’ pictures really showed a struggle on their faces.

  • K

    a bit haunting, especially with the paragraph describing the people the pics are portraying
    but they look beautiful, just like they’re asleep

    they look like they’ve had a quiet and peaceful death. these photos must have been taken right after they passed away, they still look quite “fresh”..

    beautiful.

  • leslie

    I watched my father die of cancer almost two years ago. He was only 68 years old and he went very quickly. Within nine months of being diagnosed with bladder cancer, he was gone. He didn’t want to die and fought it until the very last week of his life. It was painful to watch the strongest man I ever knew cry and look at me like he was begging to live. When he died he looked like he was 80 years old. I thought I wouldn’t want to see him in his casket. I did not want to remember him that way but it was a comfort. I looked at the body in that casket and knew it was no longer my father. It was a confirmation of my faith. Our body is a vessel for our spirit and nothing confirms it more than to see the utter transformation of the human body from life to death. These images did not disturb me in any way, in fact, they again reaffirm my spiritual beliefs.

  • Lori

    @#297, no maybe about it, Mimi was very impolite in her demands.
    the photographs made me cry, also. I saw them earlier via Boing Boing, with the title, “Wrenching and beautiful…” If you can send an angry shout to a stranger about being nauseated by the pictures, I hope you’re someone I don’t know.

  • Robin

    I was hesitant to click on the link, but now I’m glad I did. I cried my way through every story and photo. Thank you for sharing this Heather. :) As cheesy as this may sound, it makes the statement “Don’t sweat the small stuff” so much more meaningful.

  • Kate

    I think Mimi needs to chill out. They were neither gory nor grotesque, but moreover elegantly captured and respectfully done. Death is a part of living and the photographer embraces it beautifully.

    It’s a shame she used the word ‘nauseated’ because I almost did not click on the link for fear that it would be something absolutely disgusting. I’m glad I sucked it up and clicked (and then realized that in the true blogger nature, Dooce wouldn’t link something that would make you want to puke up your Cheerios).

  • Anonymous

    I was afraid, yet felt compelled, to click on the link. Mimi, I found my mother, dead in her chair. I watched my aunt die. These were peaceful, poignant and fascinating portraits. The narratives were more heart-rending than the mere pictures. We shouldn’t fear death–only wasted lives. Thanks for sharing, Heather!

  • sevi

    I looked at the site before reading the post. And the site just made me remember that i should live my life to the fullest! Everyone must visit it on a regular basis to be thankful of the chance (the life) that was given to them. The second thing i thought that if i were dooce, i would have opened the comments after posting this…

  • Anonymous

    not that interesting. people die every day. this isn’t new to us. some of them have interesting stories. this shouldn’t be new either. reach out to people if it bugs you that they eventually kick the bucket. we’re all meat, after all.

  • http://www.allconsuming.blogspot.com kim at allconsuming

    amazing.
    breathtaking.
    captivating.
    peaceful.
    insightful.
    sad.

    take your pick.

    what an amazing project and carried out with such grace and sensitivity.

    Just utterly remarkable.

    (and I am so pleased you opened comments for us all the share in what can only be termed a remarkable piece of art reflecting life)

  • http://maggie.coffeeshopmafia.com maggie

    How can you deal with these nutty demanding people every day? I give you alot of credit.

    You said what they where about. Geez. Don’t you just want to fill their inbox with spam and poop?

    I opened the link and saw exactly what I expected. death. Great link by the way.

    Now……..

    Do Work !

  • http://phreephormpsr.blogspot.com Heather B

    As a professional photographer I found the portraits to be powerful and tasteful. The subjects got to tell their story, and it was done very gracefully. The post death pics were done in a way to honor the dead. Those who know their history know that the earliest portraits were all done after death so this study was not a completely unique idea. It must be tempting for some people to hide from that which they find distasteful, but you cannot have life without death. Mimi must come from a closed casket family or her family is immortal. Ignoring death doesn’t keep it from happening.

  • Mimi

    The photos are many of the things people have posted. They are: haunting, beautiful, peaceful, brilliant, poignant, compelling. They also made me nauseous. Not because I found them repellent, ugly, distasteful, disrespectful, or any of these things. I am ENTITLED to feel nauseous after viewing these images. They are images of life and death and are very strong, visual reminders of our own mortality and the short time we have. They are reminders of who were are, what we have done, our hopes, dreams, regrets, missed opportunities, families. They are reminders that this too shall be all of us one day. Feeling nauseous by the inescapable, overwhelming reality that this will be me, you and everyone we know one day is FAIR. I am human, god damn it. I am not going to bang a tambourine and applaud of all you for being so magnanimous that you did not feel the same way.

  • http://perfectlycrazyhousewife.blogspot.com/ Anna

    Death is simply a part of life.

  • Jaida

    Heather, along with your humor and insight, you always continue to inspire. To those who may be appalled to see these pictures, you don’t realize art really does imitate life. Art inspires, angers, and stirs our deepest emotions. If you still don’t get it after that, go live in a cave until you die.

    Keep up the great work my dear. I hope to meet your goofy butt some day.

  • Eliza

    Incredibly beautiful. Thankyou so much for sharing these – I doubt I would have found them on my own. I loved how different people’s perspectives were – right down to the woman who had just bought a new fridge/freezer!

  • ML

    All I can say is thank you. And thank God I can type it because I am too choked up to speak it. These are tragic and glorious and full of the beauty of our humanity and value. As someone who spent last night in the ER full of the grip of pain these have filled me with gratitude and reminders of kinship. Thank you, thank you.

  • Ram

    Amazing – and totally life affirming.