Photographing Death: Tragedies Turned Into Art

As I started to get into photography I've always been curious about the many different fields and who would want to shoot them. Sara Sudhoff has an interesting outlook on death and how we are affected by it, so she decided to exploit that interest through photography. Filmmakers Mark and Angela Walley follow photographer Sara Sudhoff as she works on her series titled At the Hour of Our Death. In the series Sudhoff creates large-scale color photographs of stained fabrics from trauma scenes and discusses the invisibility of death in our culture. It definitely takes a certain kind of person to be able to photograph this type of work. I'm not sure if it is beautiful that she is able to turn these tragedies into art, or if it is slightly weird. What do you think?

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troy's picture

Not really sure what the purpose of photographing articles of clothing and materials means?  Before I became a full time professional photographer I worked for 15 years on the front lines in heath care (ER and Psychiatry) and I have seen death first hand.  I am not sure I agree that photographing bloodied clothing tells the victims story and I really don't know if a suicide case would want theirs told?  I am not here to judge her art, good for her in whatever she creates. I do believe however that her friends death has impacted her life beyond our comprehension and she probably hasn't been able to fully deal with it yet.

Euan Rannachan's picture

Hmmm.... At first i was on board with what she was saying, and thought what she was doing might actually be fulfilling for her. But as it went on I got the feeling she was doing it to just help her cope with loosing her "friend". Its an interesting idea.... but to say there is a need to document death in this way is the same as the beginning of life... is a bit of a stretch. Thanks for sharing it guys.

I deeply worry about people who are consumed with death. Troy's statement is spot on. This video is deeply troubling. 

i'm all for art... heck, i was recently asked to photograph the funeral of a good friend of mine - which was very difficult. but this? this is just morbid and gross. very troubling, this obsession she seems to have.

David's picture

It is clear to me that this photographer understands how personal and emotional losing someone close to you is. So I'm left wondering how she can so unemotionally and impersonally photograph the death of strangers. I like the concept--essentially remembering those who have died--and I'm not sure this is how it should be portrayed. Like Troy, I work in psychiatry and have seen how gruesome death can be; the stories behind some of these people is guaranteed to shock.

Lorenzo P's picture


Anthony Chopin's picture

Im not even close to kidding... but i literally just heated up a bowl of chili, and it now looks a little less appetizing than it did 5 minutes and 12 seconds ago!!

As for the content, im with Troy and Euan on this one. I understand what she means about not getting to see people once they have passed away and i can understand how it may affect certain people differently, but to photograph what looks to be largely suicide/crime scene evidence suggests some other possibly unaddressed/underlying issues.

I wish her the best of luck in whatever it is she's trying to achieve. I just hope it doesnt have any lasting negative impact on her psyche.

faces of death.. once a popular video series.
attracts the same animal instincts in humans as these photos.


I liked it a lot!

why does she have all this protective gear on....with flip flops?

Every photograph tells a story, whether it tells a story about the subject or the photographer is up to the viewer. But we in the first world tend to wrap death up in a nice and tidy little ceremony at the end. In most of the world, death is not so clean, it's not so wrapped up. In 3rd world countries often the dead are laid out for quite some time before they are buried or cremated or whatever the local custom maybe. I think her objective was to document the very last thing we publicly leave on this earth, the very last physical impact that is going to be seen by anyone. It's ghastly and horrific, but I can see it her point of view.

I think this lady is disturbed. There is absolutely nothing of substance in this body of work, no pun intended. 

I thought this was pretty cool. Eerie feeling.

Interesting you guys feel this way, I feel these photos are tastefully done. If you look at her work you can tell she is interested in what most of us consider strange and peculiar, sort of like Diane Arbus. But I think she photographs these in a manner that shouldn't be looked down upon.

I think this is very wonderful. Death is something we should face in this lifetime and not run away from. I think this girl is doing that, the way she is doing it, is not important to me. This is very strong and I have huge respect for her facing death like this at such a young age instead of escaping it until it's to late to get in terms with it. I could recommend reading the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying to everyone who is interested in this. 

Kelly M. Young's picture

Interesting....disturbing...I love all her equipment though.

Kelly M. Young's picture

Interesting....disturbing...I love all her equipment though.