Peter Grunwald, a statistician at the Dutch Center of Mathematics and Computer Science, calculated that over 107 billion people were born on Earth throughout human history. If we are to trust those numbers and to factor in the 7 billion people currently living on the planet earth, then we can conclude that throughout time more than 100 billion people have been born and died on planet Earth.
Time whisked away the images of most of the former inhabitants of our planet, capturing only a a select few. At different times, the visual memory of the dead was preserved by way of death masks and funerary portraits in painting or in sculpture. With the advent of daguerreotype and photography itself, capturing an image for posterity became easier than ever, and by the twentieth century a culture of grave photo imagery emerged in force. This new form photography often manifests as enameled oval plaques at the site of the grave; however, these enamel images are not durable — these images fade in the sun, wash away in the rain, or simply disappear with time. As the years go, a new image replaces the lost photographs — an image created by the elements.
Billions of the departed didn’t leave their images behind. The Last Portrait is a monument to all mankind.