Words: Javier Garcia
In 2013, photographer Miles Holder first displayed ‘The Final Sitting’, a series of portraits showing the smiling faces of people afflicted with terminal illnesses. The series of eight portraits, raised questions on mortality, demise and quiet acceptance of the one true inevitability of life, death. While it seemed as though the young artist might have found his Mona-Lisa, he put the project on hold to focus on his work within the entertainment and fashion industry.
You might know of Miles’ name from his tenure at FAULT Magazine, where he currently works as Editor-In-Chief. While he is used to working with the likes of Camila Cabello, Alicia Keys and John Legend to name but a few, we’ve received word that behind the glitz and glamour, Miles is currently reshooting The Final Sitting alongside a short documentary slated to be exhibited later this year.
Permanence not portfolio, Miles stresses is the goal of relaunching the project after so many years.
“Despite, The Final Sitting being the body of work I’m proudest of, it’s something I’ve never put in my portfolio. Photographs from the project only exist on the internet in now forgotten blog posts by people who visited the 2013 degree show. Now that my work in journalism and photojournalism is a hundred miles away from this project, I can enter with a clearer head than I could have say one year ago.”
Why are you renewing the project after so many years?
“At the time I was so proud to have created something that not only meant a tremendous amount to me but also meant so much to the people involved in my subject’s lives. After that first exhibition, I think I wrongly got caught up in only taking on projects that would further my career professionally, and from that I lost sight of just how much photography helped me on a personal level. After years of excuses and finally getting my career to balanced how I like it, it feels like the right time to start shooting projects that resonate with me on an emotional and personal level once more.”
In the original exhibition, everyone in the photographs was smiling- was this a creative decision?
I think the shock of their moods disarmed a lot of people, but that says more about us and how we view death as a society. All these years on and I can still remember the answers from the accompanying interviews, one of them being “Photography is a relic of happy times, and you take photos of those you want to remember and cherish. This portrait is important to me because I am terminally ill and I would like a portrait to give my sons.” It’s usually unnerving to acknowledge one’s demise and not something I’d personally ever done because it seems morbid to think about but if given the chance of having one last portrait to leave my loved ones, a photograph which would live on where I would not – I’d smile too.
The Final Sitting and the accompanying documentary is just part one of what will be an all-encompassing exhibition entitled ‘We Were Here’. With a focus on creating a frictionless environment to discuss illness, displacement, lost communities and much more, the project will feature portraits of a variety of different people battling with a multitude of circumstances.
To find out more about the project and how to get involved, check out www.thefinalsitting.com