“Last Scene”: Hrair Sarkissian Documents the Final Visual Wish of the Dying

London-based Hrair Sarkissian’s “Last Scene(2016) project is a collection of 47 photographs of places in the Netherlands that were chosen by terminally ill patients to go and see as their last wish. These include art and military museums, a chapel, a row of houses, field, lake, swimming pool, and the sea – calm and seemingly endless. A single image powerfully communicates the orientation of an entire life, offers a definitive insight into its beliefs and its priorities.

“The project centres on the power of a well-loved place to compress an outlook on life into a telling scene that is at once melancholic and joyful,” explains the photographer. “The simplicity of each landscape or scene heightens attention to an inner journey of remembering the past and envisioning a future that no longer includes you. In contemporary culture the notion of death and dying is often consciously ignored. This project gives the viewer a way in to grapple with the question of where we come from, and where we are going. The images turn into mirrors: on the one hand you try imagine the person who looked at the scene for the last time, while at the same time it encourages introspection: what would my wish be? These scenes were photographed at the date and time of the actual last visit.”

Hrair Sarkissian is a Syrian of Armenian origin. He was born and raised in Damascus. He earned his foundational training at his father’s photographic studio. He worked there full-time for twelve years after high school. In 2010, he completed a BFA in Photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam. He has been living and working in London since 2011.

“I use photography as a way to tell stories that are not immediately visible on the surface. The constancy and beauty of the settings, however, are at odds with the socio-historical realities that they conceal,”  the photographer states on his website. “Photography is my tool to search for answers related to my personal memories and background, and I use this subjectivity as a way to navigate larger stories that official histories are unable or unwilling to tell…Once people become aware of the invisible elements behind my work, the physicality of the image is almost destroyed. The architecture and surroundings of the execution squares are no more than a backdrop when you see the bodies hanging in your mind; the faces upon which the zebiba is imprinted are no longer individuals; the still darkness of the libraries becomes loaded once you realize what historical complexities these archives cover.”

Most recently, Hrair Sarkissan has exhibited his work in London, San Francisco, New York, Newcastle, La Spezia (Italy) and Norrtälje (Sweden).

Links: Website (hrairsarkissian.com

Images used with permission.