About the Project

The Before I die I want to... project was inspired by a combination of factors: (1) the “death” of the Polaroid, (2) a psychologist’s tool called safety contracts, and (3) a passion to get people to think about (and act upon) what is really important in their lives through this simple, straight-forward question.

(1) With the prevalence of digital photography, Polaroid announced its discontinuation of products, or in other words, its “death.” Film will be sold until the current inventory is out, which is projected to be 2009. No more cameras are being made.

(2) Safety contracts are a common tool used by psychologists when treating suicidal patients. When psychologists find someone to be suicidal, if they ask them to give their word that they will not harm them self until help comes, often times the potential victim will choose to remain alive based on this promise. Likewise, the best thing a layperson can do if they find someone to be suicidal is to ask that person to promise not to harm themselves until professional help comes. That human connection of making a promise to someone and understanding that someone cares, notices, and expects something is motivation to stay safe. Although that is an extreme example, we are hoping that Before I die I want to... will work in the same way. By asking people to state out loud/write down something they want to do before they die and to be aware we will be checking up on them in a number of years, we believe that this will add significantly to their motivation to accomplish their goal. The added fact that the photos and statements will be published online and in print will urge people to fulfill their desires.

(3) One part cultural study, another part an encouragement to reflect on priorities and take action on desires, the Before I die I want to... project will create a new dialogue in the realm of sociological art. The project aims to urge people towards thinking about and fulfilling their life goals by asking them to make a promise to themselves and to the photographer.


In a number of years (five, ten, twenty, etc.), Nicole will contact the participants via email to see if they have accomplished their goal, if they are on their way, or why they haven’t made steps in that direction. At this future time, Nicole will ask them to write a short story next to their photo on the website about fulfilling their expressed want. Seeing online that other people are fulfilling their desires will motivate participants to complete their task and write a story of their own.

About the Creator

Nicole Kenney (b. 1980 Atlanta, USA) is a Brooklyn-based artist who explores universal themes through the intimate and the personal. Recurring themes in her work include mortality, impermanence, human connections, and the passage of time. Her main bodies of work include this project, Before I die I want to... (beforeidieiwantto.org), a photo a day from the last year of her twenties (diary29.com), and her autobiographical illustrations (nicolekenney.com/boys). Her current project, Love + Loss, will be shared online at nicolekenney.com in the summer of 2011.

Nicole holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The University of Notre Dame (2003) and a certificate degree in Documentary Photography from the International Center of Photography (2011). Nicole was a also a member of the Visual Communications department of Benetton's Young Artist Research Centre, Fabrica, in Treviso, Italy (2006).

She has been exhibited and published internationally.


KS Rives co-led this project with Nicole until she left in 2011.




© Nicole Kenney | www.nicolekenney.com

General  In_India  In_Hospice  Artist_Bios