FF 2011 Spotlight: Sarah Sudhoff
The Flash Forward 2011 exhibition is now only three weeks away! Not only is it a great time to pick up a copy of the book, it’s also an amazing opportunity to see these images from all around the world up-close and on the walls. Check out our Facebook invite for all the details.
If you can’t make it to Toronto, there will also be a special US exhibition of the publication on display at Fotoweek DC, taking place from November 3-11 in Washington, DC. If you happen to be in the area during that time, please plan to attend.
In this third instalment of Flash Forward 2011 Spotlights, we’re profiling the work of US winner Sarah Sudhoff. At the Hour of Our Death is a striking series that documents and bears witness to the physical evidence that remains after the passing of a human life. These stains often go unseen by friends and family of the deceased as they are quickly removed from view, but as Sudhoff asserts, they signify an integral moment of life that we will all experience.
At the Hour of Our Death has been widely published, including features in Wired, Feature Shoot, the Houston Chronicle and Culturehall. The project was also recently the subject of a short film by Mark & Angela Walley, which sheds some light onto how these images came to be.
Watch the film and view images from the series below.
At the Hour of Our Death
Death, like birth, is part of a process. However, the processes of death –- the events leading up to the end of life, the moment of one’s last breath, and the aftermath of death — are often shielded from view. Today in Western society most families leave to a complete stranger the responsibility of preparing a loved one’s body for its final resting place. Traditional mourning practices, which allowed for the creation of Victorian hair jewelry or other memento mori items, have fallen out of fashion. Now the stain of death is quickly removed, and the scene where a death occurs is cleaned and normalized. As Phillipe Aries writes, “Society no longer observes a pause; the disappearance of an individual no longer affects its continuity”. The modern means of dealing with death promises to shield mourners from the most graphic aspects of death, yet the emotional and psychological impact of such loss lingers long after any physical evidence of this process has been erased.
At the age of seventeen I lost a friend to suicide. While visiting his home the day after the tragic news I witnessed a clean up crew steam cleaning the carpet in his bedroom. All physical traces of the past 24 hours had vanished.
At the Hour of Our Death takes as its starting point Aries’s observation that “death’s invisibility enhances its terror”. These large-scale color photographs capture and fully illuminate swatches of bedding, carpet and upholstery marked with the signs of the passing of human life. The fabrics which are first removed by a trauma scene clean up crew, are relocated to a warehouse before being incinerated. It is in the warehouse that I photograph these fragments stained with bodily fluids. I tack each swatch to the wall and use the crew’s floodlights to illuminate the scene. The images are my attempt to slow the moments before and after death to a single frame, to allow what is generally invisible to become visible, and to engage with a process from which we have become disconnected.
Sarah Sudhoff is a fine-art photographer and educator based in Texas. Her work has exhibited internationally and nationally and her images have been featured in print and online.
In 2008 Sudhoff was chosen for Photolucida’s 2008 Critical Mass Top 50 Photographers award. Images from Sudhoff’s Repository series were selected for: New Art in Austin: 20 To Watch exhibition at the Austin Museum of Art; 31 Under 31: Young Women in Fine Art Photography at 3rd Ward Gallery; Self Evident: Contemporary Self-Portraiture at Claypool-Young Gallery followed by a solo show in 2009 at Art League Houston in Houston. Also in 2009 Sudhoff became the first artist-in-residence at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in Bloomington, Indiana.
In 2010, Sudhoff’s ongoing series, At the Hour of Our Death debuted at De Santos Gallery in Houston, Texas during Fotofest. Also in 2010 the work was awarded two honorable mentions from Daylight/Center for Documentary Studies award and En Foco’s New Works award followed by a visual arts grant from the Artist Foundation of San Antonio to continue the At the Hour of Our Death series. A short film documentary on this series was released in October on Glasstire.com. Sudhoff’s current series has also been featured online at Feature Shoot, Wired.com, The Shpilman Institute for Photography and Esquire Russia. In early 2011 Sudhoff was awarded the Flash Forward prize by the Magenta Foundation. Most recently Sudhoff was awarded a residency at Artpace in San Antonio, Texas. The residency takes place in the fall of 2012 concluding with an exhibition.
Sudhoff holds an MFA in photography from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City as well as a Bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin.
Sudhoff is co-founder of the Austin Center for Photography in Austin, Texas. Currently Sudhoff is a full time faculty member at the Art Institute of San Antonio and is serving as a sabbatical replacement at Trinity University.