Alive: In The Face of Death

17 May - 15 September 2013

 Free entry

Sandra Barber. Image © Rankin


Featuring more than 70 images, in 'Alive: In The Face of Death', photographer Rankin sets out to explore and challenge our perceptions of death. Through his lens, the stories of those touched by death are revealed. 

They include people living with a terminal illness, those who have faced death and survived, and those who work within the death industry. 

One portrait is of 48-year-old Mum, Sandra, who was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago.  In Rankin’s image of her, Sandra feels she is displaying her ‘inner warrior’ as she battles her condition.

Death; we can deny it and medicine can delay it, but it is life’s only certainty.     Despite this, it remains the ultimate taboo in British society today.

Rankin’s own response to the subject is reflected in a series of self-portraits and in his ‘life masks'. These include images of living stars such as Jarvis Cocker, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joanna Lumley along with those who have passed away such as Marlon Brando and Peter Cushing. 

In these powerful works, Rankin encourages the sitters to examine their own experiences and feelings about death. The resulting images capture their determination, optimism and sheer zest for life.


Watch a video interview with Rankin


"Whether it's visual art or whether it's written, art is a very good way of processing your thoughts. And making you laugh and making your cry."  

- Rankin

Image gallery


If you have been affected by the themes of this exhibition and would like further information and support, please visit the Dying Matters website.

This collaboration between National Museums Liverpool and Rankin has been developed by BBC North and BBC Two’s The Culture Show as media partner. 'ALIVE: In The Face of Death' was also the subject of a landmark Culture Show documentary that was broadcast on 13 July 2013.

All images © Rankin.

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