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Sorrow, joy within the circle of life

The narrative of a woman experiencing the delivery of a stillborn child, finding love and ultimately having a healthy baby is told through “One Circle,” a purposely nonlinear book of photographs, poetry and music lyrics.

The feelings of dissonance the book creates are intentional, resulting from the dichotomy between images German photographer Fred Huning captured of his family’s real experiences and his desire to tell a broad story about life, love and death.

"The pictures are not in chronological order, but every part has a beginning and an end," Huning explained. "My goal was to say something universal and deeply human. The editing and sequencing creates feelings and emotions in the mind of the reader. But this is not our real-life one-to-one; it's a piece of art."

A compilation of three smaller books entitled "Einer" (One), "Zwei" (Two) and "Drei" (Three), "One Circle" brings together the experiences of tragedy, fear, happiness, love and mortality.

Beginning with the birth of stillborn baby, the despair of a mother is evident. She grapples with letting go while the thought that it could happen again continuously haunts her.

Photos of the healthy child she would successfully deliver years later, bringing her great joy, are interspersed out of sequence to conflict with her grief.

"In the hospital, nurses take photographs of stillborn children to give to mothers so they can say goodbye," says Huning, explaining the origin of a photo included in his book. "My wife put her photograph in a bin on the child's grave, and three years later I took a photograph of this now weather-beaten picture and decided to use it for the book. The child always looks the same and will not grow older, but the photograph has grown older."
Stark contrasts and new beginnings are themes repeatedly expressed throughout "One Circle."

While "Einer" starts with the hope and joy associated with a new life, it ends with the tragic fallout and grief resulting from a stillborn baby.

“Zwei” begins with a dark sky, but then the woman enters and love explodes, Huning said. “Drei” begins with dark water, but then comes the healthy baby.

"The picture of my healthy son’s first breath and the picture of the last breath of the stillborn child are key pictures,” Huning said. “This is the reason why both images appear two times."

Though Huning's photographs are highly personal, he asserts "One Circle" is not autobiographical and invites viewers to apply their own interpretations.

"Book 'Three,' for example, is not about the life of my child. It's my vision of a childhood, of a good childhood,” he said. “The truth is, we live in the middle of Berlin surrounded by traffic. But in my pictures, you see a lot of nature and never a car, mobile phone, buildings or concrete walls."

Segments of popular music lyrics and Huning's own poetry bookmark the beginnings and ends of each book section.

"The connecting parts between music and pictures are the lyrics,” he said. “When lyrics are good, you see pictures in your mind — pictures that lead to emotions, memories. So when a photograph touches your soul or your heart, it must be a good picture, like good music."

- T.J. Lane, Special to CNN