This week I was told to check out something that my friend come across in Birmingham, The Photography Show.

RememberMyBaby is an UK registered charity who have professional photographers volunteering their photography services for the benefit of UK parents losing their baby before, during or shortly after birth.
It is supported by BBC Radio 2, StandInBaby™, Zenfolio, Life After Loss,  The Jude Brady Foundation and others. The services are available across NHS Maternity Units and Birth Centres around the UK.

Here is a link to a video that explains in full what the organisation is all about.
ABOUT – RememberMyBaby

The idea of this foundation is incredible and leaves me thinking that sometimes loss can be tragic and not make sense. How can people cope? How can they say goodbye to a new life?
It is interesting how coming across this website has changed my perception of loss, I am re-thinking if asking people to photograph them during hard times, is appropriate.

There are few bit of rules and procedures for a photographer to be part of the charity and it does give the feel of how serious this is.

This can’t be linked with my Final Major Project, as this is a  lengthy application process, sensitive and confidential matter, also this would be step too far in my own comfort zone.

I think skilful photographers should get involved if they have spare time on their hands. This can be a method of coping with grief and loss of a new life for many families.
I will in the future.



I ended this week with an important meeting with someone who are making Final Major Project feel realistic and doable. John from eskimosoup has been my friend for a while, I met him through volunteering and taking part with comedy related events and we have developed a professional and friendly relationship, every time having a productive brainstorming about life, projects and professional aspects of business.

Before I started my Final Major project, I approached John to see if he could help me find interesting people from Hull, communities that are doing great and celebrate Hull and it’s people. When my subject change to funeral photography, he was still interested to help me.

The meeting was regards explaining in depth my ideas and see if he could give me an insight from his business-minded aspect.

There was couple of significant ideas that [until this day] have created a big impact on how I see my Final Major project developing and extending outside course.

Whilst I was trying to get the words right when explaining my bizarre ideas around crashing funerals uninvited and photographing mourners,also photographing dead or dying people and exploring the cultural differences, John asked me some important questions that I need to seek answers for.

  • who is benefiting from photographers presence at the funerals?
    This is an crucial question as I believe that photographing an end of life ceremony is as important as weddings and christenings…but why?
    Can explore the business aspect of this and frame it so it is attractive to potential clients.
    The benefit is the recordings of a goodbye to the loved one, capturing important moments and the beauty behind the sad occasion, celebrate the person passed away and acknowledge that all friends and family have gathered to pay their respects.
    Also it benefits people who can’t attend the funeral.
  • We also discussed that famous funerals get broadcasted on TV and online for people who can’t be there. Why can’t any funerals be recorded?
  • To shape up the business side of the funeral photography, the aims for photographer is to record respect, families and friends get-together, the beauty of grief and amount of effort that goes into organising a funeral.

John suggested me to have a debate with members of public through Humberside Radio talk show – David Burns Show.

My obvious answer to this suggestion was “no”, although the idea of having a debate with radio listeners who could really give me an insight of what an average citizen thinks of this idea, is a genius idea…..

BEFORE I DIE WALL  was another new thing I was not aware of.
John told me about the idea and I was very much interested to explore the project and see if I can make something like that happen in Hull as part of my Final Major project.

“BEFORE I DIE” wall continues the debate about the life and death.
Can we all live like it is the last day of our lives? Is that really possible if humans in general have certain characteristics [can include self-pity, laziness, self-torture and fast pace living], plus every single person have got commitments and obligations….can we live the way that makes us proud human beings….?

“BEFORE I DIE” wall is an interesting way how to say what is on your mind, stop and think for a second.

There was also few suggestions to see terminally ill people and elderly people and see what they have to say about life, death and health.


The same day [just as we are going through my diary] I went to see Princess Quay or Realm management about external exhibiting space for the Final Major Exhibition.

We discussed the available spaces and Sarah [Realm management] was super-lovely and suggested downstairs space, opposite POP and HIP Galleries and have an open-to-public exhibition [40×20 ft]

They offered a help with promoting the exhibition and that was a great addition to the kind offer.

Before the exhibition I need to send over a liability insurance and go through health and safety regulations, before signing an event license.

On Thursday the following week I had a 1:1 tutorial with Andy.

We discussed project progression and I introduced Andy with new ideas, I’ve had in the past few weeks and I also showed the recent momento mori photographs.

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I received a genuine feedback and there was a few improvement points such as adding text to images to make it clearer for the viewer or enhance the effect the image is giving…

This particular image seemed to be most suitable for adding text and later on that week I contacted Alison to ask for specific details about her great-granddad and the writing box.

The idea of photographing things that people are leaving behind after their death is interesting to me and explores another aspect of life and death. We discussed if people are leaving these things behind for the next generation on purpose or is it just something that they are part of and makes up their past…?

It is also interesting to point out that I have a difficulty to see if the photographs are sending the message across to the viewer, as I assume that the image is a reflection f knowledge about someone’s past and life…

Is my target audience the family and friends of the loved one, or is it wide range of viewers from  different backgrounds, age groups and cultural backgrounds…..???

Looking back at the experience of photographing Alison’s momento mori, I go back to the question if I try to make everything look visually pleasing or I arrange everything according to its importance and according to timeline?

All these questions above might have been in my head previously, but once I have discussed that with someone who is following my project and progress, the key elements and questions suddenly clarify…


As I knew that the tutorial is a chance to get feedback and improve project content and flow, I felt the urge to mention the potential radio show visit…and as I suspected Andy thought that it is a brilliant idea and an amazing chance to see if people are ready to talk about death and funerals…

Andy suggested to have a good preparation for the show, create a story and focus on the subjects such as funerals, wakes, cultural differences between UK and Latvia and see if there are any volunteers for my trial funerals…
As this is a controversial subject to some people, I might get a true reflection of how ready people are to discuss this on public radio talk show….also I might get some odd angry people, that will be 100% against my project, ideas and even the cultural existence.
As I have been quite interested in project aspect about momento mori and other related subject, Andy’s suggestion to contact Hull Council and letting agencies regards to photograph the property straight after someone’s moved out and record the “leftovers” of a life, seemed like an intriguing idea.
Something for me to look at once the main part of the Final Major and funerals and death/life been explored enough.

“BEFORE I DIE” wall got a good feedback and again -seems like anything I recently find or come across extends the original idea to photograph funerals.

As my project is far from involving communities and people to take part and make a difference [original Final Major Project], “BEFORE I DIE” wall is a little bit closer to than and could potentially make my project more acceptable to the public.

Philip Toledano and his project “Days with father” adds to my research.
Mr Toledano

He writes:

My Mum died suddenly on September 4th, 2006

After she died, I realized how much she’d been shielding me from my father’s mental state. He didn’t have alzheimers, but he had no short-term memory, and was often lost.

I took him to the funeral, but when we got home, he’d keep asking me every 15 minutes where my mother was. I had to explain over and over again, that she had died.

This was shocking news to him.

Why had no-one told him?
Why hadn’t I taken him to the funeral?
Why hadn’t he visited her in the hospital?

He had no memory of these events.

After a while, I realized I couldn’t keep telling him that his wife had died. He didn’t remember, and it was killing both of us, to constantly re-live her death.

I decided to tell him she’d gone to Paris, to take care of her brother, who was sick.

‘Days with my father’ is a journal.

Mr Toledano

There is another blogger who writes about Mr. Toledano
Days with my father WordPress Steph McDonnell

I have looked at the photo book and I am fascinated about the gruesomeness and the amount of honesty within the photographs and text.

I think if I had more time [or I started the project earlier] I could potentially find someone that I can build a relationship with and go through similar stages using photography…only if I had time.
This could link to my idea contact Dove House Hospice or Cancer Unit in Castle Hill Hospital, or Palative care Unit….


Past two weeks have been really intense, there has been a lot of new ideas, new contacts and links…new suggestions. The project is growing with every day and it is making me happy and panicky at the same time.


As for this week – it was time to stop milking Latvia’s photographs and continue working on project.

One of the back-up ideas was to photograph memoriums of people passed away.
I have mentioned before that my idea involves items related to the person- photographs, books, cards, leftovers from their hobbies and things that they have left behind to be kept for the next generation.

The plan was fairly simple, but I had to choose between two options – studio or on location with studio lights.

Also for the Creative Future Module we had new assignment to create still life related to Final Major Project. The brief was to create still life photographs that could potentially sell your Final Major Project, exhibition and your skills in general.
The brief suited very well, as my next plan was to create still life of memoriums, based on inspirational research of Colin Gray and Sophie Calle.

The timing was good for another reason – my friend Alison discovered her great-grandfathers writing box and documents, certificates he has left behind. There was a finding of a box of grandfathers box too, with photographs, certificates and belongings.

I felt like my trial photo shoot with a fellow photographer and friend is a opportunity not to be missed. Plus I had no other volunteers.

On a lovely day I travelled to Scunthorpe with Bowens kit in my boot.

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There it was – table full of memories, history and sentiment.
I thought that the natural light is spot on, will work great with the spotlight pointed at the main parts. Later to discover that harsh sunlight is taking away the mood and the technique is not really working.

This image though still is significant part of the process as in the background I see Alison’s present life.

For first twenty minutes together we went through the boxes, selecting the visually and emotionally important items. The sentiment and appreciation was in the air. In that very moment I realised that this assignment seems straight forward only at the beginning, because I actually get an insight to someone’s personal life, grief and memories. So this as well as crashing funerals and photographing terminally ill, is a sensitive subject matter.


Bowens Single Spotlight with Snood

Images in colour are the first edits, but I have re-edited some in black and white as to see if the toned down, moody vibe is enhancing the content and story behind the images.

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The technique did not work as I estimated at first. I could not get the balance right between natural light and studio/flash. I could have tried ambient light, but that did not come in to my head at the time of the shoot.
The compositions did not work either. It was like trying to lay-out something so valuable with blind eyes.
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This image is a fail and success at the same time, as the element of composition is failing, but the balance between both light sources work at its best [for the day].

Natural light and details

With the help of Alison I tried more compositions on the table and sideboard.
I was feeling the frustration of not having good material, so I switched to single elements and natural light.
I turned focus on specific items and used shallow DOF [85 mm f 1.8 or 24-70 mm  f1.4]


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The task was difficult, the arrangements of items had to be selected to look photographically good. Also the importance and writings accomplished by photographs was kept in mind.

I choose to “black&white it” as the colours turned out poky and sharp, distracting at times.

Some content worked better in colour, even enhanced the detail.

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The out-of-date yellow is an interesting factor in this image, as it associates with old and historical.

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This box is one of the key elements and the main reasons for the travel.
This writing box belonged to Alison’s great-grandfather Charles Cable and he used this to write letters to his family and friends in World War One.

The box also contains his scarf and medals, diary and other bits&bobs.
The smell and feel of the box was “historical” and sentimental, even though it is not mine, I felt the connection with my own family history and things left behind.

I think that photograph shows 80% of the feel and smell in the details.

Natural light and sideboard arrangement

As we moved closer to the present day, we started to go through photo albums of Alison’s family and focus turned to her Nana and grandfather.

As it was so difficult to arrange everything previously I asked Alison to work Nanas’s sideboard, duck statues and everything else.
Alison’s personal input seemed like the common sense, as she understands the family history best.

One of my favourites from the day is the wide angle shot from above with Alison arranging photos and papers and talking me through her memories of Nana and granddad.

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The photograph is working brilliantly because:

  • composition is finally making sense, adding Nana’s lamp and ducks on her sideboard accomplished by photo album, their portraits, family snaps and other items
  • Alison’s hands is the recording of the moment
  • right amount of detail leading into the centre of the image

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This photograph is closely related to Alison. These two pictures are taken from the family album and show Alison at the young age with her granddad and Nana. These images are taken at different times, but both symbol relationship and bond between them. In the background souvenir map of Essex and granddad’s wrist watch.

Reflection and conclusion

At the end of the shoot I learned lessons about light, focus and angle and how important it is to make it right. Images need to be able to tell a story and reflect the memories of someone’s loved ones. Have I done it fully? probably not, as I can’t use single images without description. But I believe that this is a good start and if I can find some more volunteers, I could have series of these memorium photo-stories.



Sadly Alison’s Nana and granddad passed away some time ago. In one of the boxes Alison found grieving cards from their funeral and also some grieving cards from great-grandfathers funeral as well. I was astonished by these cards, as I did not know that they exist and are a thing.

So I photographed these as part of the memorium, as the last messages and goodbyes from family and friends.

These two images are showing the trends in different decades.

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This supports my theory that death and funeral should have the same treatment as celebrations for new beginnings – christenings, weddings, babies being born, also birthdays and retiring. All occasions deserve a card.

Following days that week, I edited photographs, prepared them for Creative Future assignment and had meetings regards to the Final Major Project.




This week’s reflection has got a title simply because it defines what happened that week.

Once again this week I was continuing to reflect on the photographs I took in Latvia.

I showed the photographs to few other photography tutors, as I needed extended feedback.

One particular had the reaction that I am expecting to get from majority of people.

There was a shock and interest, photographs of the morgue definitely tickled the brains.

Funeral crashing photographs had more constructive criticism regards to the technical aspects of the frame and composition, but at the same time it was interesting  to see the emotional reaction to the photograph.

Some re-editing suggestions came through as well and the photographs that could potentially be presented, I re-touched, focusing on points of interest.

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I highlighted the middle area and brought the focus down to the action by burning out parts that are distracting.
This photograph is still one of my favourites, as it reflects the project purpose.

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The photograph itself means a lot to me personally, as this is my families graveyard where I used to spend a lot of time when I was little [strange statement, see previous posts to know why].

I have re-edited this by highlighting areas that reflects the purpose for this image.
I have also got rid off blue tone. Initially I left it blue-ish, as originally it was looking quite blue. But I think this way, viewer can focus on the photograph more, as there are no wondering about the correct white balance.


The whole journey has been incredible so far, but I still find image taking in the UK difficult. In Latvia my sister was alongside me during the visits to the morgue, funeral and grave yards and it was much more easier.
Here I am on my own and fighting the “shame/awkwardness devils” on my own.

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Also this week I had an important 1:1 with my tutor Andy.

There was an important discussion how I can extend my research, additional contacts and project development.

  • Dead Good Job BBC2 is a BBC documentary “taking a revealing look at the work of Britain’s funeral directors as they help people say the last goodbye”. It is not available on the BBC Iplayer, but I will try to illegally download from somewhere if necessary. This seems like an interesting program to look at as a research material.
  • An idea of advertising trial Funeral/Farewell photography services in Hull Daily Mail, maybe Gumtree. This would give me an opportunity to be at the funerals, try to use the previous research and use concepts of social photography to record the funeral. But I could also, unnoticed take pictures that are essential for my project – portraits of the body and mourners and other M.Parr style photographs.


  • Visit a crematorium  and blend into the crowds, as the procedure continues throughout the day, so there are many people coming to pay their respects.


  • Wake visits.


  • Look into the subject of cremation and ashes,  why people choose to go for the method. Why people keep them in their homes and potentially find someone who will volunteer to be photographed with the urn. Also research where and why people choose to scatter ashes in a special or meaningful place. Also what are the alternatives?
    One of the methods that I have previously heard of, is the Bois Urn The method turns the ashes into a tree. I think that this is a wonderful way how to make an imprint on this planet after your death. This is a plan B if you haven’t done anything great through your life time.

Another sources talks about green burial.  Green Burial Council  is making sure that the caring of the dead comes with the minimal environmental impact.

  • Momento mori and the ways how to photograph them.Few ideas – studio – still life – highlight the objects, leaving everything else black – Vanitas style – inspiration from the photograph below.

The same idea but on location – natural light kept underexposed – use studio lights – highlight the items, areas – inspiration comes from the image below.
The third idea is to do the same thing on location/peoples homes but use A1/A0 black card to cover up the body. I believe that hands are one of the most powerful features of the body, they  associate with love, trust, care ect and the method would expose hands holding an important item.

Part of the momento mori is the shrine photographs.
9371960fe830c6d7f4cf49f9611471ddSomething to extend my research to. This is more to do with a religion, but I think the interest is in the personal shrines.

  • Another subject is the terminally ill people and visits to hospices, care homes ect.
    This has been discussed before as part of the project. This part would slightly connect to my previous Final Major Project idea of celebrating people. Terminally ill people are aware of their life coming to an end, so I am hoping that I could potentially get some stunning portraits and wise words from these people.

    “expiry date” is a joke/truth around these portraits. Not sure about the ethical aspects of the word combination alongside the image, but I love the idea.

  • Cultural differences up for a discussion and need to write about that in the blog as part of the project.
  • Old couple photographs/portraits is another “human life celebration” idea. Care homes and social media connections would be the sources where to look for possible people.
  • Class mates dad works as a grave digger and horse carriage driver, so I have asked her to ask him, if I could visit him at one point and photograph him digging a grave or something. That would give me an access to the processes that are usually not seen by the mourning family.
  • Mourning is a process that people cope with in many different ways and I have found a audio programme on BBC radio 1 and 1 extra that exposes radio DJ’s experience of her dad passing away. Other people take part in the documentary and this is an interesting research material.
    Running with Grief

There are so many directions to my project, it is overwhelming and worrying. Unfortunately my project is delayed and I have to work fast and hard to get imagery I need.


As I have probably mentioned that numerous times before – my project is communication based, therefore to be able to get photographs I want/need, I have to contact places.

On my list currently are:

  • Dove Hose Hospice
  • Macmillan [Castle Hill Hospital Cancer Information Centre]
  • City Health Care Partnership, Community Specialist Palliative Care Clinics
  • Marie Curie Nursing Service and its Marie Curie Hospices

The list is a short version of my previous research and I have only left the possible ones.

There are few funeral directories on the list too.I have contacted two of them this week. [woo-hoo!]

  • S ROBINSON & SON – Dignity Funeral Services

S Robinson & Sons Funeral Directors

  • Robert A Drew & Son Ltd Funeral Directors in Willerby

Robert A Drew & Sons Funeral Directors

  • A Shepherd & Sons Funeral Directors in Hull


The first steps are to prepare a short introduction and take a deep breath before picking up the phone.

Robert A Draw & Sons was recommended to my as a small family-run business, that are a bit like from the TV series  Six Feet Under IMDB  – a bit “bonkers” therefore I was super keen to get in touch with them.

My introduction was straight forward – Anete – student – photography – project – research material-cultural differences – can I come and see you for a little chat?

As a surprise and slight disappointment was the lady on the other side of the line saying a definite “no”.

By this moment my confidence was out of the window, but as I am desperate to start taking some photography action, I decided to try to ring funeral directories that are part of the  Dignity Funerals.

The introduction was similar, but I suggested an interview rather than photography-related visit, as the person on the phone, told me that OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE NO PHOTOGRAPHY OPPORTUNITIES.

I strongly pushed the Cultural difference part, as I think that would pursue people to have a interview. He told me that he will ring me back the next day to arrange a meeting.

Two days later I did not heard from him, but as this post is back-dated, I can tell you that within the next week I decided that going to funeral directories is waste of time, as they would not agree to any photography anyway and I have different things to focus on.



But I have started to think how close the deadlines are and how much I have to tell people, show people and discover.

So I will develop a plan, that will be the proof that I am on the FinalMajorProject track.


Funeral photography first was as a taking a mick out of the unavoidable process of dying, therefore recording it in the same manner as we would for wedding photography. It is acceptable form of photography, photographers making money out of someone’s “happy” moment, taking advantage of the people wanting the best possible day, resources and therefore -recordings of the BIG day.

Just to note, the definition for the “take the mick out of someone” is provided below:

“This phrase is not new; the full phrase is “to take the Mickey (out of someone)”
Britons have been using this figure of speech for decades, if not centuries. A “Mickey” of course, is a “Mick”: a pejorative, racist term for an Irishman (so nicknamed because so many Irish surnames begin with Mc- or Mac-) It is a common stereotype, in both the UK and USA, that Irish men have volatile tempers, like to brawl, and make good boxers. So, To “take the Mickey (out of someone)” means to take the fight, the vigor, the gravity, the self-importance out of them, by mocking them, usually in a very subtle way.”

source – Definition for “taking the mick out of”

To summarize-originally the project covers aspects of funerals, burying, saying goodbye, preparation of the dead using styles such as documentary, portraiture and photojournalism.
The idea and starting point is a reflection of my own experiences with funerals growing up in Latvia.

Ideas have developed further as to photograph memorials, dying or terminally ill people, their belongings/life/stories, graveyards, hospitals,hospices, old people homes ect.

The main purpose is to speak about the death through imagery, have a conversation about the unavoidable, show the bold and the horrible, but maintain the ethical order of approaching and speaking with participants. Also important to remember – every life needs celebrating, regardless of how short or long it has been, we need to celebrate great things, bad things, mistakes made, children raised and discoveries made. Even better if you have won a NOBLE prize, if not, we can celebrate that you made this world a better place for someone.


This project is challenging, terrifying and bod, but I my gut tells me that I can become a better and wiser earthling, I might even help someone to get over a loss and remember, but I can also get my face punched and make someone’s day miserable….


I have some research found, books bought:

  • Audrey Linkman “Photography and Death”
  • The Photographers Gallery “Notes on Photography and Death: Mourning, Spectacle and Evidence.”
  • Gillo Dorfles “Religious trapping” -essay
  • Liz Wells “Photography, birth and death”  – chapter
  • Liz Wells “Post-family, post – photography” +Joe Spence
  • Frieze Magazine “Moments of Reprieve; Representing Loss in Contemporary Photography”
  • TVnet and Latvian Funeral materials – reflections – cultural research and personal experiences


I have visited funeral directory office



I have visited a funeral [without a valid permit]


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I have visited two graveyards

  • one of the largest graveyards in city I grew up in [Jelgava]

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  • the graveyard where my relatives from father’s side are buried. It is important to note, that as I was growing up, my dad always pushed me to visit relatives on all festive occasions and their birth/death days. [there is more info to follow in depth]


I have visited morgue and had an interview with the pathologist

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  • Joe Spencer
  • Colin Gray
  • Walter Schels
  • Joel Peter Witkin
  • Sophie Calle
  • Bill Viola
  • Sally Man
  • Beate Lakotta
  • Dr. Stanley Burns “Sleeping Beauty” [book]

PLACES TO CONTACT [crucial to do this ASAP]:

  • Marie Curie
  • NHS Choices, End of Life Care [recently news reported that the institution is failing to provide care, BBC news]
  • Macmillan – Castle Hill Hospital Cancer Informational Centre
  • Dove House Hospice Hull
  • City Health Care Partnership, Community Specialist Pallative Care Clinics
  • Connect To Support Hull

Need to find more alternatives such as family run funeral directories ….



  • POST PRODUCTION [considering exhibiting] – BLOG

Also relevant to the working process is TIME MANAGEMENT in which I am failing at the moment, therefore I have to figure out when and how to start the FMP diary and link with previous notes.


Photographing people’s belongings, pictures and memorials in the house using studio light treatment, creating specific mood.

My grandparents with the photo of their wedding day and now after 64 years together

Two ways of doing this:

  • bring items into studio, using black surroundings and using spotlight to highlight items
  • use Medium Format camera and 120 mm transparent film and get into their won environment using the spotlight.