What Does Mercy Look Like?
Mercy is commonly defined as compassion, forgiveness, kindness or an act of piety. But photographs of prisoners reaching through bars, a wrestler being contorted by masked men and an infant dressed for burial are among the many interpretations of the word in the book “The Mercy Project/Inochi,” created and curated by James Whitlow Delano.
Mr. Delano’s sister, Jeanne, had terminal renal cancer in 2007 and spent her last months in hospice care. “I felt she got merciful care,” he said “Humane care. She was treated like Jeanne.”
With his emotions still raw from that experience, Mr. Delano set out to draw attention and funding to hospice and palliative care. He reached out to other photographers, asking them to submit work for a book based on the concept of mercy. The response was overwhelming.
And it was frequently surprising, sometimes even a bit confounding. “Everyone’s interpretation is absolutely different,” Mr. Delano said. “I didn’t challenge. I didn’t ask. If you say that’s mercy, that’s all I need to know.”
The book features the work of 118 photographers including Ron Haviv, David Alan Harvey, Nina Berman, Shiho Fukada and Q. Sakamaki.
“Sometimes it’s hard to see the mercy being shown,” Mr. Delano allowed.
His own image of a congregation at a religious gathering in Manila — arms outstretched, faces streaming with tears — is included in the book. “It has taught me a lot about the rhythms of life,” he said. “Happiness can mingle with real sadness. It’s bittersweet.”