Few experiences are likely to affect us as profoundly as an encounter with death. Yet most deaths occur almost covertly, at one remove from our everyday lives.
Death and dying are arguably our last taboos – the topics our society finds most difficult. We certainly fear them more than our ancestors did. Opportunities to learn more about them are rare indeed.
This exhibition features people whose lives are coming to an end. It explores the experiences, hopes and fears of the terminally ill. All of them agreed to be photographed shortly before and immediately after death.
The majority of the subjects portrayed spent their last days in hospices. All those who come to such places realise that their lives are drawing to a close. They know there is not much time left to settle their personal affairs. Yet hardly anyone here is devoid of hope: they hope for a few more days; they hope that a dignified death awaits them or that death will not be the end of everything.
The photographer Walter Schels and the journalist Beate Lakotta spent over a year preparing this exhibition in hospices in northern Germany. They made portraits of 26 people who were very close to death. The exhibition articulates the experiences, hopes and fears of the dying, and gives them one more opportunity to be heard.