Sunday, 13 March 2011

Taboo

In her exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Annie Liebovitz contronts the taboo of death head on, and with a clear eye. She stares death in the face twice: once with Susan Sontag; and, again training her lens on her dying and dead father. I was accepted into a three week (three day) photography course for seniors at the MCA, and our first session was a tour of the AL exhibition with two experienced guides. The most emotion and discussion arose whilst viewing this category of image.


Some of my classmates were confronted, some were disgusted, some were outraged, and yet others wounded personally. Some could not look and walked off to look at the shots of Kidman or Jagger, instead.


My father is not dead, but he is into that final straight. In three months he will be 90 - if he makes it. Today he mostly slept through my visit. He took a few mouthfuls of a ripe plum. Ate one piece of Cadbury's Dairy Milk. Took the tiniest sip of lemon Solo through a straw. But mostly he slept as I stroked his forehead, or rubbed his hand. His eyes fluttered to see who it was. Let's hope he is stronger on Monday when I next visit. This is selfish of me, for I know he does not want to be stronger.

16 comments:

Madge said...

My father passed away in 1999, what I wouldn't give to sit by him and be able to talk to him and touch him as you are yours. Your photos are emotionally powerful...

Kay L. Davies said...

I'm so grateful I was able to visit my father often during his 3 years in the dementia unit, and to be with him when he died.
I was semi-asleep in a reclining chair beside his bed, aware only of the sound of his breathing. He would breathe, and stop, then breathe again, until that last time, when he stopped and did not start again. I got up and went to find the nurse, who took one look at me and knew.
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Mary Ann said...

Its a funny taboo, one that didn't exist back when photography was rare and still magical. In any case, I hope you won't let it stop you.

Margaret said...

You are very fortunate to have this opportunity. My father died while I was living in Spain. He would be 120 if he were still alive.
Margaret

Bob Crowe said...

I am not repelled by these. I am captivated. These scenes are simply part of our lives. There are images that linger in my memory of the last days of my mother, who died of breast cancer when I was in my mid twenties, and my father, who succumbed to a series of strokes when I was in my mid forties.

Your text is very poetic. Liebovitz has a gift of blending light and gesture (although one of my photographers, who knows her, says she is an absolute witch on the set).

Jayne said...

It harkens back to the late-Victorian fad of taking photos of the dead, all dressed up and posed like they were still alive.

As a nurse I felt it was a priviledge to be there with patients as they crossed over, to reassure them that their next adventure was another step along the road.
I cannot understand how anyone would see photos of dead/dying people to be anything less than a respectful celebration of their life.

Joan Elizabeth said...

Your photos remind me of the many hours I spent beside my father's hospital bed stitching a tapestry to give my mum a break and to give him company. We said little but I treasure those memories. I don't find it easy to face illness in others but for family and those who are close I consider it a great privilege to be an intimate part of the fading of their life. These days with your Dad will be special to you always.

Eki said...

I agree with Madge. These are emotionally powerful images. Poignant in their reflectiveness.

AL is one of my favorite photographers, by the way.

Thanks for your visit and comment on my blog.

Eki
Bandung Daily Photo
Jagat Fotografi

Luis Gomez said...

Julie, thanks for sharing these beautiful and powerful images. They are full of love.

GW Bill Miller said...

I held my mothers hand as she passed on a few years ago. She was only 83 but eaten up with cancer. Hard to say it was a blessing for her but good that the pain and struggle was past. Even when you know it is coming, even when you know it is for the best, it is still damned hard to see them pass.

Mark said...

Powerful and very tender images. I found your post very thought provoking, as always great work with image and text.
I am also envious of you city folk and the opportunities you have, MCA photograhy course that is really cool Julie.

Jilly said...

These are beautifully poignant photographs, Julie, taken with such tenderness. You are going to be glad you took these when your father is eventually able to let go. I see great strength in your father's face. We should all talk about death more.

Jack said...

These photos are your own way of dealing with the impending loss of your father. They serve you without hurting him. Nothing wrong with that.

brattcat said...

We have come to know and care for your father through your photographs of outings and celebrations with him. And so we come with you on this last journey you take with him. Thank you for bringing us to his bedside and showing us his beauty and dignity as he transitions out of this world.

Lynette said...

What a poignant post. My own sweet 85-year-old mother died on January 7--I came home from work and found her on her bed looking as if she were sort of taking a late afternoon nap. I took lots of photos of her and am so thankful that I did. I did not take any after she was gone, though, but I can see why someone would want to do just that.

Julie said...

Yes, thankyou, Lynette. I am not sure what I will or will not do ... shall wait for however long ...