Before I Die.. is a community project located on the edges of Hum Salon in Grafton, here in Auckland. Hum is a lovely little place, a community-run social enterprise based in a lovely old villa on the corner of Grafton Bridge, just down from the hospital. They have a wee coffee hut, sofas and a cat, and are slowly building themselves into a hub of friendliness, offering an artistic space for people to meet. If you’ve not been there, you really should – the coffee is wonderful, and so are the people. Anyway, back to the project. What they’ve done at Hum is a simple concept – put up pieces of wood around the perimeter of the cafe, paint them with chalkboard paint and spray-paint the words “Before I die I want to..” followed by a large space. Then offer chalk to anyone who asks for it to tell the world what they want to do before they pass on.
One night as I was passing Hum, I decided to document the poignant, hilarious, funny and touching notes so many people had written. The vast array of different wishes people had shared was amazing, and I hope others can see in my pictures what I did that night – a wonderful collection of shared hopes and dreams amongst strangers. Whether the hopes of the writers were comical (Before I die I want to.. “have an evening of absinthe with the pope!”) or beautifully innocent (Before I die I want to.. “hug my family”), I enjoyed reading them all and documenting them. I can’t say why, but for whatever reason, that night was magical. Something about walking through a vaguely familiar part of town on a quiet night and drinking in every detail feels wonderful any evening, but stumbling across the very personal plans and hopes of people I haven’t and never will meet – a thing ordinarily hidden – feels so special. So here it is, my mini photo series of what I think is an absolutely ace idea, and something I shall definitely be back to re-document.
NB: An anonymous commenter has informed me that this brilliant project is the brainchild of New Orleans artist Candy Chang, and this art has been replicated all over the world. Check her out, she’s incredible – disappointed I’d not thought to Google the project before I wrote about it.. duh, Lucie!