Infamous Photographer Captures Beauty in a Morgue
Death is an imminent phenomenon that occurs no matter how much we put it out of our minds. It is gloomy, shocking, sad, but mostly hopeful. Death is the one incentive we have to live life to the fullest, and it is the event that calls into question any religious or scientific doctrine. We face this dark abyss and drown with the uncertainty of not knowing what comes next.
“These are not sentimental images, but the loneliness of death manifests itself in each one”
What follows death? No one knows. How to avoid it? The most stupid question of all, since no technological advancement will ever stop this natural end. Is there peace? Maybe for the deceased, but not for the ones that stayed behind. Death for the living means living with the pain of not being next to the one that passed away. This finite existence haunts us every day.
Polemic photographer Andrés Serrano has created a photographic series, showing dark and impactful images of bodies lying in the morgue, ready to be cremated. Serrano delves into ideas of death and our relationship with it. He worked alongside a forensic pathologist, and the photographs of the dead reflect, without meaning to, a strange and classical beauty. Each person is anonymous, and the light in each photograph reveals unexpected warmth. Serrano creates a balance between cold, unfeeling death and a hopeful one.
“Alone in the nothingness, unable to accept, understand, and prevent death”
Serrano has been accused of perversion, heresy, and vulgarity in his line of work. However, his take on life and death is almost philosophical in his series The Morgue. He portrays how death occurs in the contemporary world, and he centers on the details and textures of the extinguished body. We see these countless deaths converge on the autopsy table, where cold hands covered in latex unravel the road that led them there.
“The Morgue portrays how death occurs in the contemporary world, centering on the details and textures of the extinguished body”
These photographs recall the funeral rites of over a century ago, where photographs of the deceased served as piece of memorabilia. They appear to be sleeping, but their pale pallor cannot disguise their passing. The incisions of the autopsy, the burnt skin, and the intense eyes with an empty look are the reminders of their death.
In France, Andrés Serrano exhibited a photograph of a jar filled with urine and a crucifix inside. This photograph has been banned in the US and Australia. A group of 500 people asked the museum in Avignon to remove it. The artist has received death threats and hate mail because of his work.
Despite the uproar, Serrano was awarded the Visual Arts award by the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Arts, where he received 20 thousand dollars. The artist has also staged exhibitions with his semen, feces, bodies, and blood. He is unapologetic when displaying his work, and the spectator is equally disgusted and attracted by his images.