From the moment I heard about the landscape with a corpse project, I pictured a romantic death instead of tragic and gruesome one. While thinking of ideas, I thought of Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Much like Izima Kaoru’s photos, the death of Ophelia has a somewhat romantic, aesthetic sense to it. In the play, some characters claim Ophelia slipped on a branch and fell into the water while others claim she took her own life. Either way, Shakespeare provides the image of her body peacefully floating in the water with her flowing dress and hair.
I really wanted to do something similar to the scene in Hamlet but felt it would be difficult to recreate. First of all, I have no idea where to find a pond or swamp in Long Beach. Even if I did, I did not want to get into the freezing water! Instead, I decided to do something different with the ocean. My boyfriend, Luke came along to take the photos of me. It worked out well because he also needed to take photos of me portraying different emotions for one of his film classes at Chapman. We joked that one of his emotions would just be “death” but ended up taking some nice ones for his project too. I chose my theoretical death to involve my body being washed up onto the beach after a shipwreck. While drowning itself is not romantic, and probably quite unpleasant, the death that I portrayed could be seen as aesthetically beautiful with the ocean background. We found some seashells at the shore and placed them in my hair and hand to show that my body had been floating in the ocean for some time before it washed onto the beach. To make it even better, the sky was gloomy and helped portray a symbol of death.
Death itself does not scare me that much. I am not afraid to die nor am I afraid of what happens after death. I think it is really the anticipation that kills me-no pun intended. Two years ago I got into a pretty bad car accident where my brakes went out and I crashed into the back of a city bus. A few seconds before it happened, I realized my brakes were not working whatsoever. To avoid swerving into oncoming traffic on the other side, I made an impulse decision to hit the bus in front of me. The weird thing about this experience was my sense of tranquility even though I knew I was about to crash. It’s almost creepy to think about how calm I was. I just accepted what was going to happen and didn’t really worry about getting hurt or even dying.
It really put death in perspective for me; I believe when I do die, the experience itself will be free of worry and fear. I like to think that it is actually a very fascinating experience. Both of my grandparents died of cancer within the past 4 years and my mom, who is extremely fascinated with death (even more so after her parents died) explained to me what both of them went through while they were passing. My mom said it was almost like they were met by loved ones and were even speaking to them as they were dying. My grandma had already closed her eyes but she was smiling and saying hello as if people were greeting her into the afterlife. I guess we will never really know what it is like until they day we die, but I like to think it won’t be so bad. Like I said, I am not afraid of dying. It’s just the anticipation and not knowing when and how I will go. Even more so, I have a lot of anxiety about losing loved ones. I was really close with my grandparents and I can not bear the idea of grieving over other loved ones like I did with them.
In the end, I really enjoyed doing this project. It made me think more about death and the afterlife. I think it’s really refreshing to have an activity that involves death since a lot of people are terrified of the subject and avoid it as much as they can. This can be really problematic in the future, especially when you experience the death of someone around you. We need to be able to come to terms and make peace with the concept. I strongly believe the subject of death is something that should be discussed more openly in our society-after all, it happens to everyone.