Death, dead, dying, passed away….
In the 19th century portrait photography of deceased family members were common place to those who could afford a photographer.
Theorist Susan Sontag likened the photograph to a death mask, writing ‘all photographs are memento mori that enable participation in another’s mortality’.
Sontag states also that “Photographs turn the present into past,….”
If you want to read a good review of one of photography’s greatest theorists then you can read this NY Times review on Roland Barthes “Camera Lucida” after it was published in 1981. Basically it states that Barthes grief over the death of his mother influenced the whole theory. What ever your thoughts it is an interesting read.
Portraits of deceased individuals is seen as a macabre project, and we often do not have a choice of when or where or how we die, but I hope to remove the mystique and taboo, with this body of work.
As a volunteer photographer for Heartfelt but also as a radiographer working in major trauma centres many years ago, I have been exposed to death. I think as a society we can do it better, more empathetically, and with this in mind I am creating this body of work telling different stories.
The galleries below in order are:
- Die Like a Dog an exhibition that was shown at the Head On Photo Festival in 2009, with the image of Billy on the bed with his dog beside him on the floor winning me a finalist spot in the Head On Portrait prize that year, also. Please note: This gallery does contain images of a deceased person.
- Roadkill: A body of work I am still working on reflecting peoples’ morbid fascination of honouring death with macabre road side memorials. The polaroid images were made in 1997.
- Professor Jeffrey Grey: Professor Grey died suddenly of a heart attack. This body of work and subsequent photobook reflects the space left in the lives of his wife and son, but also his work colleagues.
It is a work in progress to document as many different deaths, whether human or animal.