After the death of a close friend, New Orleans artist Candy Chang wrapped an abandoned building with blackboards that read "Before I die, I want to _____."
The project produced an outpouring of fears and dreams. There were concrete desires ("swim without holding my nose") and more abstract hopes ("see equality").
Since its 2011 creation, hundreds more "Before I Die" walls have been organized around the world. Today, there are nearly 400 in more than 60 countries, written in over 25 languages. Responses range from the specific -- "Have seven children" (Asunción, Paraguay), "Visit Switzerland" (Hyderabad, India), "See Chile win the World Cup" (Santiago, Chile) -- to the vast -- "Live free" (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), "Make a difference" (Johannesburg, South Africa), "Leave no rock unturned" (Vancouver, Canada).
Before I Die, Chang's new book, highlights 48 walls and celebrates the communities that have been touched by the project. She also offers some insights gained from sifting through over 100,000 responses.
There are some common themes -- the five most frequent words she sees are love, live, travel, be happy, and help others. What's unique among the projects, however, is the character of the public spaces involved. As the following images from the book illustrate, "Before I Die" leaves enough room for any community to make it its own.
On May 5, 2012, a "Before I Die" wall was erected in Townsville, Australia, Berlin, Germany, Jersey City, USA, and Vancouver, Canada -- a joint effort by a group of friends who are spread out around the world.
All images courtesy of St. Martins Press, unless otherwise stated.