British fashion and celebrity photographer Rankin had created a massively successful career for himself as one of the world’s foremost image makers. But he found himself floundering after the successive death of his two parents, leading him to think about mortality, living, and dying in a way he hadn’t before.

This led to his creating a remarkable photo series, called “Alive: In the Face of Death,” more than 70 portraits of people facing death in different ways, whether with a terminal diagnosis, or having battled cancer, or being a part of death work in some way.

Talking about death can be empowering.

So what did this buttoned-up British lad take away from all those people he photographed? “That talking about death can be empowering,” he said in an interview with the BBC when the show first went up in 2014.

"What I've learned from the project is that so many societies deal with it in different ways. We're definitely not top five. We're probably not top 100. We deal with it really badly.”

Fortunately, Rankin dealt with the topic really beautifully via his art. Watch the video above to see how the project came together—and to meet the amazing men, women, and even two 17-year-old boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, who were a part of it.


SEE ALSO Rankin’s collaboration with the beauty editor of Hunger Magazine, a collection of striking beauty images that create beautifully alive Day of the Dead faces.