Alive: In The Face of Death is an exhibition of photographs by Rankin (real name John Rankin Waddell) being shown at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool as part of the LOOK/13: Liverpool International Photography Festival. It consisted of portraits of (mainly) ordinary people who were either facing, or had faced, death. Sounds morbid, but the nobility and bravery really came across. Reading the stories of the subjects of the portraits on the captions accompanying the portraits made it clear why the title of the exhibition emphasised the word ALIVE.
This portrait is of Louise Page, a 42-year-old charity worker from Edinburgh who, when told she had terminal bone cancer that wasn’t treatable, started writing an online blog. Sadly, she died three days after she’d been present at the launch of the exhibition.
One of the other portraits was of Wilko Johnson, a favourite guitarist of mine (ex Dr Feelgood) who has terminal pancreatic cancer. On hearing the news, rather than give up and retreat into himself, he decided he’d go on a farewell tour.
The stories of many of the other people portrayed in the exhibition are equally inspiring. Despite their terminal or serious illnesses, or the situations that they had brought them face to face with their mortality, they hadn’t given up. And although death is a difficult subject for me, I prefer to avoid thinking and talking about it, I found the exhibition very moving.
Here’s an interview with Rankin talking about the project.