David Fathi connects science, history and art in his photo work. In doing so, he exceeds the boundaries of cognition, and touches on different themes. He does this in all kinds of projects, such as in the story of Henriette Lacks. It seems fiction, but it is not. The story is true and always up-to-date.
Henriette Lacks is dead and buried. She died in 1951 of an aggressive rare form of cervical cancer. Without being informed (neither was her family), a sample of the cancer cells (containing the DNA of Henriette Lacks) was taken from her for research. Dr. Gey called these cells ‘HeLa’-cells (from HEnriette LAcks). These cells behaved differently than he had ever experienced. They continue to live and multiply, on and on. The cells continued to proliferate and to this day they still multiply.
All over the world – also in the Netherlands – they are used in medical laboratories for scientific research. To do research on cancer, herpes, aging, flu, appendicitis, lactose intolerance, Parkinson’s disease, the mating behavior of mosquitoes, the consequences of prolonged work in sewers, cosmetics and the atomic bomb. They have even been in space. Her children only discovered 25 years after her death that their mother’s cells were still alive and sold to scientists worldwide.
The Last Road of The Immortal Woman
David Fathi made a series of photographs of the road Henriette Lacks traveled between the hospital in Baltimore, where she died and her final resting place at the graveyard in Virginia, USA. Her last trip – the last road; but for her cancer cells the beginning of a worldwide journey. In the pictures the cells are visible in the photos as a ghostly type of spirit appearance. Fathi has deliberately made no pictures of the end of the journey at the cemetery. By telling the story of Lacks and her immortal cells, Fathi not only shows the tangible road between hospital and cemetery with his photographs: he also tells the story of segregation, controversy and appropriation, the story of death and immortality, and the space between science and emotion, between the personal and the political.
About David Fathi
David Fathi (France, 1985) is a photographer and Master in mathematics and computer science. The Last Road of The Immortal Woman will be shown at Breda Photo. With this project Fathi won the 2016 Photo Folio Review in Arles.