The Prospect of Immortality

  • ‘Clearly, the freezer is more attractive than the grave, even if one has doubts about the future capabilities of science. With bad luck, the frozen people will simply remain dead, as they would have in the grave. But with good luck, the manifest destiny of science will be realized, and the resuscitees will drink the wine of centuries unborn. The likely prize is so enormous that even slender odds would be worth embracing.’ Robert C.W. Ettinger

    In 1962, Robert Ettinger published 'The Prospect of Immortality', the book that gave birth to the idea of ‘cryonics’ – the process of freezing a human body after death in the hope that scientific advances might one day restore life.

    Fifty years later, between 2006 and 2015, I have undertaken an extensive photographic investigation of the practice Ettinger inspired. The photographs take the viewer on a journey through the small but dedicated international cryonics community, from the English seaside retirement town of Peacehaven; through the high-tech laboratories of Arizona; to the rudimentary facilities of KrioRus, on the outskirts of Moscow. Worldwide there are approximately 200 patients stored permanently in liquid nitrogen, with a further two thousand people signed up for cryonics after death.

    The project combines photographs of the technical processes involved, alongside portraits of the people engaged in the quest to overcome the ‘problem of death’. Whilst members have often been ridiculed for their views, I take an objective stance, allowing the viewer to consider the ethics of the practice, and to decide whether members are caught up in a fantasy world of science fiction, or genuine scientific innovation.

    *The following is a selection of images from a wider series of 80 photographs from the book published by GOST in April 2016.

  • Alcor Life Extension Foundation
    Alcor Life Extension Foundation
    Scottsdale, Arizona. December 2012
  • Meeting for prospective members
    Meeting for prospective members
    Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. October 2006
  • Operating room
    Operating room
    Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. October 2006
  • Aaron Drake, Medical Response Director
    Aaron Drake, Medical Response Director
    Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. August 2009
  • Patient storage demonstration
    Patient storage demonstration
    Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. August 2009
  • Hugh Hixon, facilities engineer and research fellow
    Hugh Hixon, facilities engineer and research fellow
    Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. April 2007
  • Patient Care Bay (dewar being filled with liquid nitrogen)
    Patient Care Bay (dewar being filled with liquid nitrogen)
    Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona. October 2006
  • Frank, prospective patient and standby team member
    Frank, prospective patient and standby team member
    Standby team training, Peacehaven, East Sussex. May 2007
  • Bob (practice body), standby team training
    Bob (practice body), standby team training
    Sheffield, South Yorkshire. July 2010
  • DNA archive
    DNA archive
    Home of David and Ellen Styles, Macclesfield, Cheshire. February 2009
  • Cryostats
    Cryostats
    Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan. April 2010
  • Flower box
    Flower box
    Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan. April 2010
  • Portraits of patients currently held in cryostasis #2
    Portraits of patients currently held in cryostasis #2
    Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan. December 2012
  • Catstat
    Catstat
    Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan. March 2007
  • Rocky Mountain Cryonics Facility
    Rocky Mountain Cryonics Facility
    Nederland, Colorado. March 2007
  • Trygve ice-bathing
    Trygve ice-bathing
    Heggelielva, Sørkedalen, Norway. April 2015
  • Temporary storage container
    Temporary storage container
    KrioRus facility, Alabushevo, Moscow. September 2010
  • KrioRus technicians outside the facility
    KrioRus technicians outside the facility
    KrioRus facility, Alabushevo, Moscow. September 2010
  • Margaret Kiseleva holding a photograph of her mother, Ludmila
    Margaret Kiseleva holding a photograph of her mother, Ludmila
    KrioRus facility, Alabushevo, Moscow. September 2010
  • Timeship #7
    Timeship #7
    Near Comfort, Texas. December 2012