Photojournalism / Editorial Photography | Winner

Alain Schroeder

Brussels / Belgium

Living for Death


In Toraja (Indonesia), the rituals associated with death are complex and expensive. Therefore, when a person dies, it can take weeks, months even years for the family to organize the funeral.  During this time, the deceased is considered to be "sick" and kept at home. While, it remains a sad time, the transition from life to death is a slow and peaceful process strengthening family bonds. Depending on the family, the body may be kept uncovered, bundled in layers of cloth or in a coffin.

In the region of Pangala, the Ma' Nene, or cleaning of the corpses, ceremony takes place after the rice harvest. Coffins are removed from their burial sites and opened. The mummies are cleaned, dried in the sun and given a change of clothes. Expressions of sadness are mixed with the overall happy atmosphere surrounding these moments of bonding with loved ones and honoring ancestors.


Alain Schroeder is a Belgian photojournalist born in 1955.

In 1989 he founded Reporters (, a well-known photo agency in Belgium.

He has illustrated over thirty books dedicated to China, Persia, the Renaissance, Ancient Rome, the Gardens of Europe, Thailand, Tuscany, Crete, Vietnam, Budapest, Venice, the Abbeys of Europe, Natural Sites of Europe, etc.  

Belgian titles include, « Le Carnaval de Binche vu par 30 Photographes », and « Processions de Foi, Les Marches de l’Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse ». Publications include National Geographic, Geo, Paris-Match,… He has won many international awards and participated in numerous exhibitions worldwide.

He is represented in Belgium by Reporters and in Paris by the photo agency HEMIS.

Jury Statement

Living with the dead is completely unknown in the western world. In his series of photos titled ‘Living for Death’, photojournalist Alain Schroeder documents the rituals surrounding death and the dead in Toraja, Indonesia. Instead of a remote and clinical handling of the theme of death, as is, in the meantime, generally the case in the so-called civilized world, the people of Toraja literally live with the dead. As the rituals of death are complex and costly, it may take weeks, months or even years until the family can organise a funeral when a member of the family dies. In the interim period, the dead are simply considered to be ‘ill’ – and remain in the family’s home. Here, Alain Schroeder reports on an unusual and profoundly human subject. His sensitively captured black-and-white images help the viewer to come to terms with this, at first, alien aspect of life and death. This is precisely the impact good photojournalism must have on those who see it.