Visual dialogue about life and death

peter Tan-mum_and_me2

Peter Tan with his mother.

peter's pic4-a

Relatives and friends at Peter Tan’s mother funeral.

Peter Tan and his wife Wuan and I will be having a exhibition of photos from 17 to 30 August 2009 at the KLPac.



My pictures of my mother going into hospital and then she ‘disappeared’ there.

What is death? This is a question that confronts everyone as it is at the heart of humanity.  There are those who believe that after death, there is nothing, and there are those who believe it is the exit to another life. But the real answer is finally unknowable – for no one has been there and come back to tell us what it is.

What may survive after death are memories, some of which are concretized in photographs. Photography has a tremendous power to preserve private memories and perpetuate the ‘life’ of a departed one. They record moments and emotions that can be revisited by the person looking at them.

6 thoughts on “Visual dialogue about life and death”

  1. There is nothing mysterious about death. Just like birth, ageing and sickness, it is a cycle all sentient beings go through in the samsara world.

  2. ALL photographs (not just those of death) are momento mori because (to quote the late Susan Sontag, author of “On Photography”) to photograph a person/thing is to capture a moment, freeze it, and thus “participate in its mortality, vulnerablity or mutability”. A photograph is both a “pseudo-presence and token absence”.

    Not sure how it ‘perpetuates’ the life of the departed, but its deep connection to the past certainly triggers an overwhelming sense of longing.

  3. I find life mysterious in all its parts, birth, time, death and sadness and joy etc…however one may choose to see it is up to the individual. That is also as incomprehensible as they are peoples and starts. Thanks for your comment and good to hear from you.

  4. Perhaps ‘perpetuates’ was not the most suitable word and you are right about how looking at photographs of the departed ‘triggers an overwhelming sense of longing.’ But private pictures we take for ourselves which stay with us in our albums can continue our memories for as long as we choose and then when those pictures passes on to others they may have a life of their own. The life of a photograph is unpredictable it may be perpetual for all we know.

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