Assignment 2 – The Afterlife

Even though most religions believe in life after death, whether reincarnated or in another reality, the fact remains that our bodies waste away. In India most people are cremated and I wanted to add a photo to the series in which this is shown. When we ‘expire’ as Indians call it, our bodies are just empty sacks of bones, ready for the fire. The spirit has gone on to another life. This in contrast to conservative Christian faith where is believed that the believers will raise from the dead. Whatever the ideas may be, death is intrinsically related to our lives, our bodies and the meaning of our existence.

I took the following photographs at a cremation site on the banks of the river Yamuna. It was early morning, right before the families of the cremated were going to collect the ashes. On the river side there were still a few fires burning, and I’m not sure if these were cremations as well.

It is quite confrontational to know that these ashes are remains of human beings, in the sense that I am confronted with my mortality and worth. Do I believe that live goes on? Does faith make a difference in how we find meaning in life and death? What does our body mean to us, what do the memories of us mean?

Of these, I prefer the one in which the dog is looking for bones in the ashes and the one where we see people standing around a fire with the dog in the foreground. In the back you can see the Yamuna River, which is believed to be a holy river. The river is one of the most polluted rivers in the world, there’s a mixture of chemicals, religious artifacts, ashes and half burnt bodies floating around. This photo shows the raw ending of a life, amidst the trash and holy water. If I knew for sure that this is a cremation, I would add this photograph to my assignment, but it might as well have been a fire to keep themselves warm.


So I choose to submit the photograph in which the dog is sniffing through the remains of a cremated person.


An other image that doesn’t necessarily relate to a religion or faith, but made me think a lot about my beliefs and the place of an individual in society are the photographs of Santosh. His family declared him dead so that they could sell his property. He has been struggling for years to be declared alive again, so that he can continue living. Instead of trying to make people believe in life after dead, this man has been protesting for years to prove he is still alive. To me it shows that the concept of proof doesn’t have a lot to do with people having faith or not, it’s more about power and the ability to convince others.

Of these four, I have chosen the last one and converted it into black and white. However, since I only have to submit 8 images in the assignment, I don’t think it will be part of the series.



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