PetaPixel

Powerful Portraits of Incredible People Who are Facing Death with Acceptance & Peace

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Right Before I Die is a tearjerker. It’s a heartbreaking photo series by Andrew George that strikes at the very core of most people’s deepest fear, insofar as it is a series about death, but also manages to inspire, because it is about people who are staring down the great unknown with incredible acceptance and serenity.

And so the photo series, which features 20 terminally ill men and women in all, is not merely an exploration of death. It’s a tribute to the inner strength and peace that these “unremakable” — meaning their earthly accomplishments don’t include fame and fortune — and yet extraordinary people show in the face of death.

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The project began after the mother of one of George’s friends passed away. He was astonished at the outpouring of love at her funeral, and began to wonder what it was about her that left such an impression on her friends and family.

This question ultimately led him to seek out those people who were living with terminal diagnoses, so that he could speak to them, get to know them, and, of course, photograph them.

The portraits he came away with are beautiful in a simple way, unadorned by props or strange effects, drawing you immediately into the eyes and stories of these pillars of inner strength. Every portrait, on the project’s site, is then accompanied by short excerpts from letters and conversations that he had with them about life, love, friends, family, regrets, forgiveness and more, all processed through the lens of approaching death.

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In a foreward written for the project, Alain de Botton writes:

The dying are the great appreciators. They notice the value of the sunshine on a spring afternoon, a few minutes with a grandchild, another breath… And they know what spoilt ingrates we are, not stopping to register the wonder of every passing minute. They were once like us of course. They wasted decades but now they are in a position to know of their folly and warn us of our own.

Whether you take these images as warnings of the folly of living a distracted life, or simply as moving portraits that capture so much of these peoples’ souls in a single frame, is up to you. Just keep George’s words in mind as you scroll through the rest of the series below, “These men and women were no different from any of us, and, sooner or later we would all be experiencing what they were.”

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To see more of the photographs, or if you’d like to read some of the profound letters that accompany each portrait, head over to the Right Before I Die website by clicking here.

(via The Huffington Post)


Image credits: Photographs by Andrew George and used with permission


 
  • slyman

    ah, emotionally moving not actually moving.

  • http://recordandcapture.com Whitney W.

    Okay, I’m glad that I’m not alone in thinking that.

  • ilo_photo

    Yep, I was staring intently for quite a while. Still moving, but not, as you said, moving.

  • Jack B. Siegel

    These photographs raise the fundamental issue: What is photography? If you didn’t know the subjects were dying, I don’t think you would find the photographs particularly interesting. Once we know that, we project onto the photographs, which makes them arguably powerful or at least thought provoking. If you use the old cliche to measure a photograph’s power–a picture is worth a thousand words–then the photographs are arguably a failure because without knowing the back story, they don’t tell you too much.

    And so do you need an artist statement? Or do you need to marry words and images for a project?

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  • http://crispylogs.com/ Crispylogs

    Great people !

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  • Joe

    Come on DL, you coulda’ fit at least 15-20 more unnecessary, hacky adjectives in that headline!

    Regardless, there is nothing remotely powerful about these images. They are nothing more than very poorly composed and poorly, inconsistently lit, snapshot quality pics. They provide very little to zero context, meaning or story. There’s nothing accepting or peaceful about most of their expressions. Quite the contrary.

    PP is great at taking nothing and wasting a lot of effort and adjectives to turn that nothing into nothing. Nothing remotely worth reading or looking at.

  • David Vaughn

    It depends on the type of photography and the intent. Much iconic photojournalism is pretty “meh” in terms of photographic content until it is given context.

    Fine art photography is generally very aesthetic (in my opinion), so context is only needed if they artist wants the viewer to understand their intent. But even without the words, the work is still visually tantalizing in some way.

    However, photography that’s sole purpose is to communicate often requires context, otherwise it might just appear to be another photograph of some old person in a hospital.

    The idea that ALL photos need to stand on their own to be successful is, in my opinion, narrow-minded.

  • Jack B. Siegel

    Fair enough. So there are some photographic images that ask us to project ourselves on them, and there are others that ask us to let the photograph project on us. Both are equally valid.