Death performs a lightning-quick montage of our lives.
P. P. Pasolini, Observations on the Long Take
On May 4, 2016 my aunt Lavinia Bertotti died of complications from a pancreatic tumor. The months leading up to her death were a series of meetings and seemingly endless waiting, overcoming obstacles and facing decisions in the fragile uncertainty and at times mocking pursuit of a treatment, where those who are forced to face this illness often find themselves wandering. I shared this adventure at her side – and certainly I was not the only one – sharing trips and consultations, anxieties and evaluations, but also many moments of grace, friendship and beauty.
During that year, Lavinia and I took photographs. Lavinia compiled a kind of visual diary using her cellphone and captured thoughts, daily events, dialogues and intuitions in various diaries. Using these materials and the interweaving of her point of view with my own as a starting point, I reconstructed the last year of her life. As a result, I found myself understanding elements of her life which I had previously ignored. Her career as an engineer in space projects and as a singer of Renaissance and Baroque music were some of the trajectories I followed as I metaphorically retraced Lavinia’s biographical story. Using this process, I did not intend to write about a way of life nor describe how an unlucky diagnosis leads to death. Instead, I meant to reflect on one person’s end-of-life experience and see – from my own perspective as a witness-spectator and, in retrospect, from that concluding point in life – how multiple and diverse experiences nourished an existence that begins to make sense like a composite photographic sequence – albeit one that may at times be ambiguous and often susceptible to new opportunities .