By: Lauren Ali
ALL IMAGES BY MURRAY BALLARD
Death is a frightening concept for some, being cut off from the world and left to live in a black abyss for all eternity. For others, death is just the beginning and a stepping stone into another life. There has been a great debate on whether bringing people back from the dead is ethically right or wrong. Death was the only certain thing to occur in a person’s life but not anymore. British photographer, Murray Ballard documents the practice of preserving someone’s recently dead body in liquid nitrogen at extremely low temperatures until technology advances and they can (hopefully) be brought back to life.
(Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. December 2012.)
Murray explains the process of cryonics in further detail below:
“It’s complicated, but briefly, in an ideal situation, a ‘standby team’ will be waiting by a patient’s bedside for the moment they are declared legally dead. As soon as possible, the patient is placed in a bath of ice water and injected with stabilization medications. Then cardiopulmonary support is introduced to maintain artificial breathing and blood circulation. The patient is then transported to a cryonics facility and vitrified. This is the process of injecting them with cryoprotectants (human antifreeze), which helps to minimize cellular damage. The patient is then gradually cooled down to -196°C and suspended permanently in liquid nitrogen. At the moment, nobody has been revived from cryopreservation. Cryonicists point to the field of molecular nanotechnology to reverse the damage done by freezing. As to when this might be possible, I’ve heard estimates ranging from 50 to 1000 years.”
(Meeting for prospective members, October 2006. Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. April 2016.)
Murray began his project, “Prospects of Immortality” in 2006, photographing cryonics facilities throughout the UK, America, France, Norway and Russia on his large format camera 5×4 negative film. Using film allows Ballard to focus more closely on his shots and subjects, being more selective about what he captures. He has met people who have signed up to preserve their own bodies once they die as they have more of an opportunity of having life again being cryopreserved as opposed to being cremated or buried.
(Cryostats, Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan. April 2010.)
“What I like about cryonics is that it gives us a vehicle to consider questions about the future,” explains Ballard. “There’s no doubt humanity will continue to further its understanding of how biological processes work and develop more advanced technology. It’s difficult to predict where we’ll be in 50 years, let alone 100 or 200 years time. I’ve read that a growing number of scientists believe that one day we’ll be able to prevent ageing. If that happens, we’ll be living in a very different world.”
“There’s an incredible optimism in signing up to cryonics, which I admire. I also think it’s quite a brave thing to do, putting your body in the hands of future generations, and, if it works, you’ll probably ‘wake up’ in a very unfamiliar world.”
You can purchase his photo book here:murrayballard.com
To view more of Ballard’s work, visit his website and follow him on Instagram and Twitter @murrayballard.
(DNA archive. Home of David and Ellen Styles, Macclesfield, Cheshire. February 2009.)
(Patient storage demonstration. Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. August 2009.)
(Patient Care Bay (dewar being filled with liquid nitrogen), Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Phoenix, Arizona. October 2006.)
(Catstat. Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan. March 2007.)
(Margaret Kiseleva holding a photograph of her mother, Ludmila, moments before her cryopreservation. KrioRus facility, Alabushevo, Moscow. September 2010.)
(Frank, prospective patient. Standby team training, Peacehaven, East Sussex. May 2007.)
(Temporary storage container, KrioRus facility, Alabushevo, Moscow. September 2010.)
(Liquid nitrogen delivery, August 2009. Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. April 2016.)