Inspiration: Liz Baylen’s “Waiting for Death”

Wow. I really love this audio soundslide project by Liz O. Baylen. Hat’s off to Liz for putting this simple, elegant, thoughtful collection of images and audio together.

It opens with an image of an elderly man – and the hand of a woman reaching across our field of view toward the man’s forehead.  Fade to black and the photo is replaced with sounds of breathing and a brief line of text.  The man starts a 30-second introductory dialogue.  You quickly realize this is the voice of intelligence and articulation.  He is thoughtful.  He is refined.  He is old.  He tells us he is about to die, perhaps within a year.  Perhaps he even yearns for death.

As the narration continues, images bring us through the details of this man’s life.  Simple details of home, of books, of activity and space.  To me, these images perfectly frame the narrative.  They don’t lead us through from point A to point B to point C.  The narration takes that lead.  The images instead work to fill in details unexpressed by words.  The imagery allows us, as listeners, to visually scan this man’s world and piece together his past, his passions, his loves.  Liz Baylen could have inserted the backstory of this man’s life: he married X person and lived in Y town, working in Z career, etc.  Instead, Liz provided images of the remnants of such a life (framed photo of a young woman), close-ups of books and reading materials, etc. that allow us to build up an understanding of this man’s history and personality.  Liz reveals the backstory via clues.

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