Photo 'Puck Kooij' by Saskia Aukema Photo 'Puck Kooij' by Saskia Aukema

Tot Zover

At Home with the Coffin - photography by Saskia Aukema

Would you like to see your future coffin everyday? Or see your own urn shimmering on your mantelpiece? It might be confronting – but not for everyone. Some of us have already made all the necessary preparations: their caskets are waiting for them at home, their burial shrouds are at the ready and their gravestones have been commissioned. Documentary photographer Saskia Aukema has captured and interviewed a few of these people, with the most extraordinary photos and stories as a result.

In the Netherlands, not too long ago,  it was common to include a white cotton burial shroud in a bride’s dowry. Or to be gifted for a couple’s wedding. As a yearly tradition, the shroud would be meticulously  washed and ironed with great care – good housekeeping, or a reminder of one’s own mortality?

Nowadays, we prefer not to deal with death directly. We find it depressing, or worry that this kind of ‘morbid’ thinking could be bad luck. But in New Zealand, coffin clubs where members construct their own caskets are on the rise. The Japanese custom to test one’s own coffin is slowly emerging in the Netherlands. And Dutch funeral directors encourage us to make our final wishes known before it’s too late.

The people captured in this exhibition celebrate and embrace life, but do not ignore death. Instead, they engage.

About the photographer

Saskia Aukema is a Dutch journalist and photographer. She enjoys slow journalism: stories that develop and blossom gradually, often about a person’s vital life decisions and how these shape their identity. Aside from her work for newspaper Trouw, her widely exhibited photo series such as Veiled were nationally awarded in 2016 and 2017. She has two publications, Bekeerd (2014) and Veiled (2017), under her name.