Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Beautiful Death (Not for the sensitive, real depictions of death)

The following includes real depictions of death, not recommended for sensitive readers...
Whether we like to admit it or not, people are naturally fascinated by death. Many find the subject taboo or disturbing, yet we cannot help to look on when disaster strikes. The highest ratings most news outlets get are when uncensored, raw footage is shown. When a wreck happens, the roadways will show with onlookers waiting to catch a glimpse of what trauma may have been. People fear death, they respect it and they are drawn to it.

I'm one of those people.

Once in awhile something happens that shocks the very core of me when death occurs in the most violent of fashion and yet, the deceased remains beautiful. How calm can come of wreckage and chaos. These are the boldest examples I could find.

Eerie and Macabre, but beautiful all the same:

The Most Beautiful Suicide: The Death of Evelyn McHale

According to Life Magazine; "On May 1, 1947, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale leapt to her death from the 86th floor observation deck and landed on a United Nations limousine parked at the curb. Photography student Robert Wiles took a photo of McHale's oddly intact corpse a few minutes after her death. The police found a suicide note among possessions she left on the observation deck: "He is much better off without me ... I wouldn’t make a good wife for anybody". The photo ran in the May 12, 1947 edition of Life magazine and is often referred to as "The Most Beautiful Suicide".

This Depicition was later used by Andy Warhol in one of his prints entitled Suicide, Fallen Body.

At the young age of 20, Evelyn McHale walked to the 86th floor of the observation deck of the Empire State Building, at 10:30 a.m. I cannot imagine what went through her mind as she stared down 1,000 feet to 34th street below.

Acorrding to Ephermal New York's website, 10:40 am Patrolman John Morrissey, at 34th and 5th Avenue reported seeing a white scarf floating loftily from the sky. This peaceful moment was instantly interrupted by an ear piercing boom. As a crowd gathered, he sees a woman resting peacefully amongst the wreckage of a United Nations Assembly Cadillac limousine. Somehow amongst the violence and wreckage of this car, Evelyn lay beautifully still clutching her pearls as if posing for a pin-up photo shoot.

As if by fate, directly across the street, young photography student Robert Wiles stood with camera in hand. He ran to the scene to take what would be one of the most poingant, surreal photos of American history. His photo was displayed in Life Magazine the same week. The caption of the photo read “At the bottom of the Empire State Building the body of Evelyn McHale reposes calmly in grotesque bier, her falling body punched into the top of a car.”

Atop the Empire State building was left a folded coat, a make up kit and a purse that contained a suicide note; “I don’t want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me. Could you destroy my body by cremation? I beg of you and my family – don’t have any service for me or remembrance for me. My fiance asked me to marry him in June. I don’t think I would make a good wife for anybody. He is much better off without me. Tell my father, I have too many of my mother’s tendencies.”

To read more, I highly recommend this article from Codex99. Their article is the most extensive about Evelyn's history. According to the website;

"Since the Empire State Building was constructed in 1931 some 36 people have jumped from the building, including 17 from the 86th floor observation deck.

Evelyn was the 12th suicide from the building and the sixth to clear all of the setbacks. She was one of five people in a three week period to attempt suicide from the observation deck. In response a 10-ft wire mesh fence was installed and guards were trained to spot potential jumpers. After the barrier was installed people just jumped from other parts of the building, usually from office windows. The most recent suicide, however, was a 23-yo Yale student who managed to scale the observation deck fence on 30 May 2010."

The Death of famous Mexican journalist, Adela Legarreta Rivas

April 29th 1979, Adela Legarreta Rivas was heading to her book release party in Colonia Roma. According to many sources including Vice and Documenting Reality, she was crossing the street to her sisters when two cars crashed on the corners of Avenida Chapultepec and Calle de Monterrey. One of the cars involved, a white Datsun, ran her over killing her instantly. Draped across a pole, in calm repose, Adela resembles a new starlet whimsically daydreaming of things to come.

On scene, photographer Enrique Metinides snapped this photo of Adela who was dressed beautifully for what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, instead it's left her immortalized in one of the most tragically beautiful photos.

Enrique is well known for photographing tragedies and crimes scenes. This photo is part of his collection, "101 Tragedies of Enrique Metinides".

Other images from Enrique include these;

This woman went to Chapultepec, Mexico City’s most popular park, found the oldest tree. She went to the tree, pulled a rope out of her purse, and hanged herself. When they took the body down from the tree, they found a photograph of her daughter in her purse with a note that read: “My husband left me and took my daughter when she was nine years old, and today, when she turns 15 and I still haven’t seen her, I can no longer take the pain and I’m taking away my own life.”

This photo only described as ‘Accidente en la carretera’, 1982 (Road Accident).

The Death of Norma Jean

Marilyn Monroe was Americas sweetheart throughout the 40s - 60s. What many didn't know was the dark secrets that she kept hidden from most, except the people who knew her best. She suffered from hereditary mental illness that left her hearing voices, feeling paranoid and unable to sleep. After quick popularity and stardom, she often found herself in the care of people who did not have her best interests in mind, but instead saw her as a commodity. She was recommended barbiturates to help her sleep, and other drugs to help her wake, so she was camera-ready by day.

August 5th, 1962, at the age of 36, Marilyn was found dead in her home. Traces of pentobarbital (sleeping pills) were found in her liver, and also chloral hydrate in her blood. The reason of Marilyn's death was identified as a "probable suicide." Due to her affair with both John F Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, other's speculate she was murdered by the Kennedy's because she had become a liability.

Her funeral was attended by only 25 people at the request of family. Many said that she was as beautiful in death as in life. Because she was found face down, her face had lividity (Livor mortis), from the blood settling in the lowest areas of her body

I won't delve too deeply into the history as the facts are easily searchable.

Updated*** Paolo Schmidlin’s painted bronze sculpture, “At Rest,” is a haunting visual of Marilyn Monroe in her coffin wearing her favorite green dress.

The Death of Diana Bryant

The next photo I will share is that of photographer Stanley Forman which received a Pulitzer Prize for spot news. The photo depicts 19-year-old Diana Bryant and her 2-year-old goddaughter Tiare Jones falling after taking refuge on a fire escape that gave way from a burning apartment on Marlborough Street in Boston on July 22, 1975.

2 year old Tiare survived as she landed on top of Diana's broken body. She died hours later. She was a hero. As they began to fall, Diana lifted Tiare's body to a firefighter, Robert O'Neil, on the floor above her. Unable to reach them, O'Neil jumped to the fire escape to reach them. He moved just before it collapsed.

Forman arrived on scene expecting to capture "an impending routine rescue". What he captured has gone down in history as one of the most poignant, compelling photos of all time.

I will warn you ahead of time, that this image, in my opinion is honestly the most disturbing as it catches the moment of life, just before death.

Many may wonder why I would share such a heart wrenching photo. I can only say, that such a photo is a stark reminder that life is precious and can be taken from us at any moment. My own daughter at this time is 19 years old. I can barely bring myself to image what went through her young mind in this moment. I'm instantly brought to memories of my own child's 19 years flashing before me like a whirlwind. Her achievements, her fears, her hopes and dreams all crashing down to the city floor below.

It makes my heart beat faster and stand still all at once. It's nauseating and painful to look at, but the fact remains, this is reality. Many have faced similar fates, but rarely has such a moment been captured on film. This is one of those moments.

Memento Mori: Remember That You Will Die