Framing The World Through My Photographs

Rankin’s, Alive : In The Face Of Death

On the 23rd May I got the opportunity to go to an exhibition by Rankin in Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery. The exhibition was called Alive: In The Face Of Death ( showing 17th May – 15th september). Before going to the exhibition, as a wasn’t really sure what to expect, with a title implying death.

The collection features many portraits of people who are living with illnesses that they know, will ultimately  kill them, and some who have faced a near death experience.

Bellow is a statement by Rankin himself, which says more about the reasons behind the exhibition.

“Death affects us all, it’s inevitable, we know that. But what we don’t know is how we’d react when staring death in the face and given a time frame to live by. 

Until May I’ll be photographing and getting to know people touched by death – those battling terminal illness, those who have faced near death experiences and those who have lived against the odds. I’ll also be looking for the views of workers in the death industry, from embalmers to coffin-makers.”

Most of the portraits were of typical of a typical Rankin style however it the stories that make the images. I found the stories very moving, and it gives an insight as to what they are/have been through. For example the image of Sandra Barber (found below)

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 22.02.25

Taken By Rankin

” Sandra is a 48-year-old mother from Switzerland. She was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago and at the time was given one year to live by doctors. The cancer has spread and she is now having chemotherapy for a brain tumour. Although Sandra’s cancer is terminal she is determined to fight on. In Rankin’s image of her, Sandra feels she is displaying her ‘inner warrior’ as she battles her condition. ” (

Before reading the text that was next to the image I didn’t grasp why she may be styled in this way, but from what I can under stand by looking on the Alive’s website the people in the images help choose how they would be styled. The way Sandra is styled in her photograph is very strong.  The dark eye make gives her a sense of power over the viewer. This styling goes with Sandra’s statement which says she is displaying her ‘inner warrior’.

Moving further into the exhibition were Rankins take on mexican death masks.

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 17.46.45

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 17.46.57

These photographs are self portraits of Ranking himself. Rankins version of mexican death masks have brought his fashion photography style back to the collection with the added colour, glitter and ‘bling’. As I didn’t particularly know what a Mexican death mask was I did a bit of research into it. Mexican death masks are a tradition to the Mexican festival the day of death.The festival is where the people honour their deceased relatives. The death masks that are made are usually made from sugar.

self portrait of Ranking himself

self portrait of Ranking himself

Also in the exhibition was a collection of photographed ‘Life Masks’.These we casts made of celebrities faces which were inspired by Victorian death masks. Victorian death masks were used before photography to memorialise the dead. I was personally interested by these images yet a little creeped out. Below is an example one of the masks. This one is of David Gandy a male supermodel.

Screen Shot 2013-05-24 at 20.16.21

The purpose of this whole body of work was to make the viewer question themselves about death. Which this exhibition has made me do just that. I have a lot of respect for the people featured in the collection as I am sure that if I was faced with death I wouldn’t cope as well.

This is Louise Page,her image was one of many featured in the collection, Unfortunately she passed away on the 19th May 2013. Seeing this sad news on Alive’s Facebook page really brought a real sense of reality to the work for me, as even though there are stories to go along with the images they never seem that real.

In Memory Of Louise Page – 15.12.70 – 19.05.13


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This entry was posted on May 25, 2013 by in Personal Professional Development.
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