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Urbanautica

CATHRINE ERTMANN: ‘OM AT DØ’

BY MARTIN PETERSEN

Do You Realize - that everyone you know someday will die (Flaming Lips)

There is no way around death. You can cheat it, you can have nine lives like a cat, but ultimately you, like any other, must surrender to it. Whether you like it or not, you’re going to go through life with both having to bury friends and family, say your final farewell to people you care about and subsequently continue living with missing them until one day you are the one who is being missed.

Lately I have kept returning to Cathrine Ertmann’s series “Om at dø”(About Dying). A series depicting the period from death has occurred to the deceased is laid in the ground. It is not a series for the squeamish, because you get close, very close. But the series is executed with so much respect for the subject, for the dead and the bereaved that it leaves you with peace of mind. A peace of mind I think stems from the realization that there will be taken care of you when you’re dead.

When you look at the pictures, it is clear that for some it was time, whilst others were supposed to still be here. An innocent picture of a cradle in a window is in this context the most unpleasant of the images that meets you through the series 26 photos. I have not seen the photo in detail yet, I’m still to new in the role of being a father, it’s just too close. But I’m also a grown man who has buried both older family members and peers, and this look backstage into a world which few have insight to gives me peace. I find it touching, beautiful even, to see the hair of a deceased slowly decaying being combed with the most neatness and gentleness, and words could never reproduce the peace that prevails behind their closed eyes.

In connection with the series Cathrine Ertmann said the following to Information (Danish newspaper).

"I have tried to suggest more than showing what I obviously could show in the photographs. You should be allowed to dare to dwell on the photographs, which is why I focused on the details, which I hope gives food for thought. Maybe others can even see the fine and beautiful in the pictures that I saw when the sheets were removed". 

The work with the series was the first time Cathrine Ertmann stood face to face with the dead, and the series is an attempt to reproduce the undramatic experience it was to be present backstage among the dead. The result is a stunning “demystifying project”.

© Cathrine Ertmann

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