Monday, October 18, 2010

"Before I die, I want to...."


I stumbled across a gem of a website this week. "Before I die, I want to...." is the brain child of
photographers/artists KS Rives and Nicole Kenney. Both started the project partly with the
news that Polaroid would be discontinuing products, allowing a symbolic death of this
iconic product.

However it goes deeper than this. In contemplating a tool used by the medical community called "safety contracts" for suicidal individuals, they were struck by the power of verbal commitment. The simple notion of someone being asked to promise not to harm themselves until help comes, etc, with the verbal agreement from the individual has been shown to actually work.If there is power in this verbal connection, what if someone made a verbal commitment as they contemplated death, about something they hoped to achieve? Would the act of

documentation make any difference they mused?


Thus a project was born, using the immediate art of a Polaroid camera with no "re-do's" and a person's own words/handwriting outlining what it is they want to do before they die.


As you can imagine there is much to be examined in terms of values as related to age, culture and life experiences.


The two have traveled internationally posing this question and have even visited a hospice in NY to ask those closer to death about their wishes/hopes.



All in all they've captured over 1,200 photos. They have plans in the future to attempt contact with each individual to see if they've achieved their goal and also to ask for a narrative once they have.

The website has the photos divided by location; US, India and Hospice. There are also interesting insights the photographers have from their experience as the "documentarians". I enjoyed reading their observations as they contemplate cultural differences, including Americans often unease of the question, as it brings up dying.



The project is ongoing and they even accept Polaroid's taken from others - with instructions on the website how you can submit your own "Before I die, I want to..." Polaroid.

I hope you can take some time to browse the photos, making your
own insights on what you see. They mention they've yet to find someone who has said "nothing", it seems we can all think of something we want to do before we die.

What would your caption say?

All images are copyrighted 2008-2010 to Nicole Kenney + KS Rives

The translation from the final photo taken in India reads "I want to make a pilgrimage to Mecca"

3 Responses to “"Before I die, I want to...."”

Amber said...
October 18, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Before I die I would love to sell everything I own and travel extensively. We'll see if the hubs will go for it...


Christian Sinclair, MD said...
October 18, 2010 at 9:26 PM

Great post Amy,

I need to think about what I would put on my Polaroid. But then the immediacy of the project is probably what makes it work well.

I think there is a lot of power in the verbal commitment, even more than one on paper or even more modern, a digital promise. Think about the saying "my word is bond." Or when a child asks you to "Promise?" on something you have offered. Words are power.


Christian Sinclair, MD said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:53 PM

Great post Amy,

I need to think about what I would put on my Polaroid. But then the immediacy of the project is probably what makes it work well.

I think there is a lot of power in the verbal commitment, even more than one on paper or even more modern, a digital promise. Think about the saying "my word is bond." Or when a child asks you to "Promise?" on something you have offered. Words are power.