This week, I was instructed to photograph myself in a setting of my choosing, but with a very specific theme: death.
“Landscapes with a Corpse” combines the beauty of a candid setting with the eerily beautiful stillness of death. As I thought about the project at hand, it made me consider how I wanted to die. What is the first image that comes to mind for you when you imagine your death? Personally, nothing came to mind. I have considered the reality of death many times, but I have absolutely never visualized myself in that predicament. I still have not, even though there is now photographic evidence of my participation in the project. One aspect of “Landscapes with a Corpse” that doesn’t resonate with me is the act itself: you can’t pretend to “feel” dead. So instead, I focused on the artistic aspects of the project, and it turned out pretty well. I chose an angle and setting that undermines the ritualistic sanctity of death. Instead of the poetic end, I opted for an arbitrary, nihilistic layout.
The first landscape is centered on an empty intersection, with my body lying against a traffic light pole. The upright position of my body was chosen because it signifies a slow, gradual slip into death. There was no climactic bang for this individual. Just a soft, quiet release into the unknown. I wore black clothing with no visible labels to keep the focus on the landscape, and adding brands sometimes confuses viewers into believing there’s an anti-corporation message in the piece.
This landscape was actually a photography error by my assistant. By crouching down to get a more personal relation to the corpse, one of the traffic lights distorted the lighting in the camera flash. Before deleting it, I thought that the white haze surrounding the entire image could be a decent representation of my final moments. As everything fades into distortion, I can still hear and feel before the white haze turns into pitch black. This was a visual that immediately draws feeling into the piece without understanding what that feeling represents. I hope you felt that sudden uncertainty as you scrolled down to this image.
This last landscape was meant to be more focused on me (the corpse) as the centerpiece. You should notice the body first and then trail off into looking at the empty sidewalk. While prepping this shot, I wanted it to be more beautiful than eerie. It almost appears as if I’m just resting, and looks unconventionally comfortable. While the other shots are meant to inspire a sense of loss, this one gives off a sense of hope. There’s hope that I might be alive, or that someone may walk down the street and find me before it’s too late. It was interesting how this contrast happened with only a 90 degree shift to the right, from the intersection to the sidewalk. Maybe this is because the sidewalk suggests humanity, while the intersection just suggests emptiness. Which feeling would you rather inspire?