AN exhibition of poignant and startling monochrome portraits of “life masks” by the celebrated photographer Rankin will be on show at Poole’s Lighthouse arts centre from Tuesday 15th September to Saturday 21st November in the main gallery.
The exhibition, Alive: In The Face of Death, had been due to open in March just as the country went into lockdown. Presented in collaboration with Poole’s Forest Holme Hospice charity, it sets out to explore and challenge our perceptions of death in a series of haunting monochrome images of casts made from the faces of celebrities such as Robert De Niro, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sean Connery, Joanna Lumley, Jarvis Cocker and Holly Willoughby, and Rankin’s wife Tuuli.
Other images include Dr Simon Pennell, the Poole-based specialist palliative care doctor who worked with the photographer on the original exhibition in Liverpool’s Walker Gallery in 2013, photographs of professional mourners from Ghana and colourful masks that invoke a more vibrant cultural understanding of death and dying in an echo of the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations.
The project was inspired by the death of Rankin’s parents – his mother Anne from lung cancer and father Roy from a heart attack – within three weeks of each other in 2005.
“The whole process of them dying really confused me,” the photographer has said. “I didn’t know why I was so ill-prepared for what happened. That was the spark that started the whole project off.”
Rather than focusing on death itself, the exhibition is a celebration of life and diversity through work that explores the vitality and importance of living. As well as the images on show visitors will be able to view the book of the original exhibition and leave their own contributions on the gallery wall in words and pictures.
Paul Tucker, Forest Holme’s communications manager, says: ”Death is still very much a taboo subject in our culture, so we hope this exhibition will challenge our perceptions of death and ignite dialogue about what really matters to people at end of life.”
Rankin, famously one of the enfants terribles of Cool Britannia, co-founded Dazed and Confused magazine with Jefferson Hack in 1992 and established himself as one of the leading photographers of his generation – his subjects included Kate Moss, Madonna and David Bowie for publications such as Vogue, GQ and Marie Claire.
Pictured: The “death mask” of Joanna Lumley.