Three years ago Turkish photographer Emir Özşahin lost a close friend. Grappling with death as so many of us are forced to do, he turned to art in order to process the paradox mourners face -- the desire to forget the image of a corpse while preserving the memory of a loved one.
"I could not get the image of her lying on the highway covered with newspapers out of my mind," Özşahin recalled of his friend's death in a statement to The Huffington Post. "Over the years, as I forced myself to forget about that image, I also realized that in my memories, she was fading away too."
The art project that followed this period of mourning, "Pastel Deaths," features beautifully macabre portraits of deceased animals. The subjects -- cats, dogs and birds posed to appear as though they were peacefully sleeping -- appear like whimsical ghosts from a childhood fairy tale. Resting in a minuscule bed or lounging in a rocking chair, the creatures appear not as they died but as they might have lived, had they been characters in a nursery rhyme. Blurring the lines between the trauma of reality and the comfort of fiction, the series turns the idea of Victorian death portraits on its head.
What could at first be viewed as a morbid interpretation of loss is best understood through the words of Özşahin himself:
"This project is more about who is left behind when you lose someone, rather than the death itself. It is about how people want to remember the ones they have lost in the past. My aim is to show death, which is an awful thing but also the inevitable, in a naive and optimistic way. I photographed dead animals like they are peacefully sleeping in order to get rid of the sense of death and it's cold imagery... I’m seriously not sure if this is an escape or an acceptance for me. All I know is that the photographs have a positive effect on me."
Scroll through images of "Pastel Deaths" below and let us know your thoughts on Özşahin's series in the comments.