Magnum Photos Blog
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November 12, 2012
by Jacob Aue Sobol
Onse and Axel
Axel is 89 years old. “You have to meet my girlfriend”, he says, “she is ten years older than me!” He tells me about Onse and how they fell in love on a holiday in Bangkok. He invites me to visit them at Onses’ house. Onse is 99 years old and lives alone. She has never been married. She used to be a photographer and traveled all over the world. She still dreams about it. Axel, on the other hand, feels more comfortable in Denmark, but he listens to all the stories Onse has to tell from her travels. They live apart, but every weekend Axel comes to visit.
On this saturday in spring 2010 they invite me in. I photograph them hugging and carressing each other. Onse has many wounds on her body, so Axel is tender when he touches her. I hear Onse express her comfort. Whispering groans of joy.
Axel tells me that until two years ago, they still made love, but now Onse has a special bed from the hospital with no room for Axel. “But we still kiss”, Axel says. And so they start kissing. The first image feels right. Before I start thinking. Before I start framing. Before I ask them to do it again. The first kiss is the best. And then a moment later it is all over, before the film is finished. Onse is tired and needs to go back to bed.
I have the films developed and scan them at my studio. I look at every single image on the computer. I select a few images from each film and make test prints. I make hundreds of small prints this spring. I edit again and again. I put them on the wall. Every week I add new images to the wall. Some day I will take them down and make them into a book about life in Copenhagen - my home city.

The following week I am late for a meeting with Axel. It makes him upset. “You need to keep your promises”, he says. “It will make your wife happy”. The following week I keep calling him as promised, but there is no answer. It turns Sunday, and I know he should be with Onse at this time. Onse picks up the phone, she sounds half awake – half asleep. Axel is not there.
“Unfortunately I think Axel is dead”, she says.