Forest Holme Hospice in Poole originally teamed up with Lighthouse to host Alive: in the Face of Death back in March but lockdown restrictions meant the exhibition never officially opened.
In the original exhibition, held at The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, Rankin, best known for his glamorous portraits of celebrities and fashion icons, sets out to explore and challenge our perceptions of death and ignite dialogue.
The exhibition at Lighthouse features a series of haunting monochrome ‘life mask’ portraits by Rankin of casts made from the faces of celebrities such as Robert De Niro, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sean Connery, Joanna Lumley, Jarvis Cocker and Holly Willoughby, as well as his wife Tuuli.
Other images include Dr Simon Pennell, the Poole-based specialist palliative care doctor who worked with the photographer on the original exhibition in Liverpool’s Walker Gallery in 2013, and photographs of professional mourners from Ghana and colourful masks that invoke a more vibrant cultural understanding of death and dying in an echo of the Mexician Day of the Dead celebrations.
Paul Tucker, communications manager at Forest Holme Hospice, said, “We are absolutely thrilled that Lighthouse is able to open its doors again for members of the public are able to see this truly fascinating exhibition. It was an honour that Rankin gave us permission to use these images which are so powerful and expressive. Death is still very much a taboo subject in our culture, so we hope this exhibition will challenge our perceptions of death and ignite dialogue about what really matters to people at end of life.”
The project was inspired by the death of Rankin’s parents – his mother Anne from lung cancer and father Roy from a heart attack – within three weeks of each other in 2005.
“The whole process of them dying really confused me,” the photographer has said. “I didn’t know why I was so ill-prepared for what happened. That was the spark that started the whole project off.”
Rather than focusing on death itself, the exhibition is a celebration of life and diversity through work that explores the vitality and importance of living. As well as the images on show visitors will be able to view and purchase the book of the original exhibition and leave their own contributions on the gallery wall in words and pictures.
“Lighthouse is exceptionally pleased to be working with Forest Holme Hospice to show work by one of the world’s most renowned photographers,” says Lighthouse Chief Executive Elspeth McBain. “Rankin has tackled a challenging subject with compassion and his customary creativity to present a powerful and moving exhibition that will start conversations and give us all something to reflect on.”
Rankin came to the fore as one of enfant terribles of Cool Britannia. He co-founded Dazed and Confused magazine with Jefferson Hack in 1992 and established himself as one of the leading photographers of his generation, shooting the likes of Kate Moss, Heidi Klum, Madonna and David Bowie for publications such as Vogue, GQ and Marie Claire.
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