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Alive: In The Face of Death - Rankin installation and exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery
Sandra is a 48-year-old mother from Switzerland . She was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago and at the time was given one year to live by doctors. The cancer has spread and she is now having chemotherapy for a brain tumour. Although Sandra’s cancer is terminal she is determined to fight on. In Rankin’s image of her, Sandra feels she is displaying her ‘inner warrior’ as she battles her condition. She said: “Having cancer has made me more aware of how we are here for a very short time and how we should aim to live in the moment. When the time comes, I will embrace death and accept it with grace.”

LIVERPOOL.- Those who have been touched by death are the focus of a powerful exhibition by photographer Rankin.

ALIVE: In The Face of Death opened on Friday 17 May and runs until 15 September at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery .

The exhibition features more than 80 images as Rankin looks at the reality of death in its entirety.

Fascinated by the place that death, the ultimate taboo, holds in Britain today, Rankin is setting out to ignite dialogue and challenge people’s perceptions on the subject through this ground-breaking exhibition.

This collaboration between the Walker Art Gallery and Rankin has been developed by BBC North and BBC Two’s Culture Show.

Rather than focusing on death, ALIVE: In The Face of Death is a celebration of life and diversity of character with each work exploring the vitality and importance of life for each person.

There’s 48-year-old mum Sandra from Switzerland diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago and at the time was given one year to live by doctors. Although Sandra’s cancer is terminal she is determined to fight on. In Rankin’s image of her, Sandra feels she is displaying her ‘inner warrior’ as she battles her condition.

Fran, 23, who suffers from a rare disorder that affects the central nervous system, adores butterflies and asked Rankin if she could be surrounded by them for her photo shoot. Rankin also photographed legendary Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson who has terminal cancer.

Visitors to the free exhibition will be able to read the inspirational accounts of the people in each image.

A key element to Rankin’s work has been to let people take control of how they are portrayed in the images. For instance, there is a photograph of teenaged twins Sam and Dan, who suffer from Duchene Muscular Dystrophy. Rankin’s portrait sees them photographed in red and white – the colours of their beloved Liverpool FC.

The exhibition is 360-degree earnest look at death and also features images of people who have faced near death experiences or have miraculously pulled through against all the odds, as well as those who work in the death industry. There is a gravedigger, a funeral director and an embalmer. Professional mourners, hired for funerals, are also present.

In a survivors section is a portrait of Sergeant Johnson Beharry who survived life-threatening injuries while serving in Iraq . Johnson is the first living recipient of a Victoria Cross in more than 30 years.

There’s an image of Martine Wright, who lost both legs in the explosion at Aldgate Tube station during the 7/7 bombings. Other survivors include people who escaped the horrors of Auschwitz .

In another section more than 20 celebrities are photographed wearing “life masks”. This includes Abbey Clancy, Joanna Lumley and Marlon Brando.

Rankin, 46, said: “This is one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever been involved in and looks at life in the face of death. Whenever I’ve been near mortality – whether in the Congo or witnessing a fatal accident – it just immediately crystallises everything that is important in life. It makes you see your priorities clearly.

“Following the death of my parents six years ago I have had a strange relationship with death; only recently did it dawn on me quite how scared I am of it. I really wanted to challenge myself to confront these fears through ALIVE and document that journey.

“I’ve met some amazing people and I think each portrait brings out the vitality of each subject, their humour, their unique qualities.”

National Museums Liverpool Director of Art Galleries, Sandra Penketh, said: “It is a major coup for the Walker to have an exhibition by one of the world’s most influential photographers. The subject of mortality is challenging and Rankin has tackled it in a very moving way.

“The Walker has a long history of thought-provoking exhibitions. We are very excited to be working with Rankin and the BBC on what will be a deeply emotional exhibition.”

ALIVE: In The Face Of Death will also be the subject of a landmark Culture Show documentary to coincide with the exhibition, capturing both the artistic process and emotion in telling such a story.

Janet Lee, Culture Show Editor said: “This is a huge undertaking by Rankin and we are thrilled to be making a documentary that will reveal the whole process with exclusive access to Rankin and his subjects. The collaboration between the Walker Art Gallery , Culture Show and BBC North aims to bring audiences a moving, life-enhancing film and a ground breaking exhibition.”

In the exhibition there is an area for people to leave comments and also receive information from the Dying Matters Coalition which aims to help transform public attitudes towards dying, death and bereavement in England .

This exhibition forms part of the LOOK/13: Liverpool International Photography Festival which launcheed on Friday 17 May and sees dozens of photographic exhibitions and events taking place across the city.

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Alive: In The Face of Death - Rankin installation and exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery

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