WEEKLY REFLECTION #21

There was another thing I was hoping to avoid doing, but it was clear that only stepping out of my comfort zone will bring me the success [I am also referring back to the idea of applying for the radio show].

As I really wanted get access to funerals without braking the law or intruding someone’s deep and personal grief, I had to advertise myself as a free- funeral photographer. I understand that if this develops into a business aspect at some point I could charge, as any photographic services cost money, but for the project purpose I would love to be invited to photograph funerals as trials.

I went to Hull daily Mail website advertisement section and by a surprise I could not find a suitable section, where I could fit a rather strange [or specific] advert.

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I have to contact Hull Daily Mail and see if they will accept my request and help me to find suitable section.

HULL DAILY MAIL CONTACT

WEEKLY REFLECTION #20

ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER TUTORIAL – REFLECTIONS

This week I was productive so far and things were going in the right direction.

Tutorials are an important part of the course. The communication with tutor is essential, as they help to clarify the important parts of the project, gives feedback on work done and also most of the time works as ideas generation.

Andy [tutor] knows my project in depth, so I never miss a chance on sharing the latest project updates.

This week I had to discuss the grave yard visits, show imagery and talk through the radio show appearance.

Andy has looked through my proposal and noted that I have to clarify the cultural angle in more detail, so the listeners understand why I am doing this project and why I don’t consider this as taboo.

We also discussed if Latvian funeral culture has remained its aspects of photographing dead bodies in coffin and display funeral photographs. Additional research needed on this one, as I am not 100% sure if other fellow Latvian families are as crazy as mine, just to be clear.

As originally I asked Andy to join the radio show as a support, second opinion and to ease the nerves, in this tutorial it appeared that I might have to go on my own [yikes].

 

Apart from the radio show and getting feedback on my grave yard images, we continued to generate new aspects and ideas for the END OF LIFE project.

Just to say, that Andy is a great example of a great tutor. Knowing my project, Andy does some research and helps us to improve, by looking at different artists and ideas execution.

There are artists who in the past have added smells to photographs to extend the viewing and absorbing experience.

The funeral photographs from my family archive has got a smell. So as my grandma’s old cabinet were she used to keep her things. Or her old clothes.

These images are accompanied with the smell and it adds to the effect they give to my brain cells when I look at them.

So if I could find a definite smell that reflects the photographing experience or relative experiences regards to the image content that could be great.

For example, if I photographed someone’s ashes, I could either add the smell of the ashes or smell of that person -perfume, natural scent….

Photographer Frieke Janssens, who exhibited in Photography Festival in Hull in October with “Dianas” has an interesting and relevant to me series of photographs called “Your Last Shot”

She explains:

“No one likes to think about their own death. And especially not about the photo they will be remembered by on their grave. Photographer Frieke Janssens wants to change people’s mindsets when it comes to that particular photo: ‘your last shot’.

“In reality, those left behind need to find a photo quickly that is ‘ok’ and usually it requires some Photoshop retouching. And the question remains: how would the deceased feel about this photo? Maybe he or she would have untagged themselves from it?”

The series of ‘Your Last Shot’ will reflect a combination of the portrayed’s wishes and the photographer’s style. “My personal preference goes to static portraits as they were taken at the occasion of weddings at the beginning of the 20th century. My aim is to make an iconic portrait that is beautiful, serene and fearless, preferably with a gentle smile, indicating that the model is clearly aware of the fact that this portrait will be used for a very long time to come.”

Sinister? “Not really, life and death are inevitably linked. In Belgium there still seems to be a taboo around the thought of death. As a photographer, I feel that the moment when one reflects about their own death is a precious moment to be shared and portrayed.”

The portrayed will receive their ‘last portrait’ printed on porcelain, so that it actually can be used when the time has come. Which is hopefully many years from now.

“In each series, I try to make people reflect on a specific subject. Should we not care more about that one photo that will be used infinitely? Would you not prefer to choose that photo yourself? By the way, it strikes me that, when people visit someone’s grave, they like to take a walk through the entire cemetery. And what do they do? Indeed, looking at the pictures.”

Source:
Frieke Janssens “YOUR LAST SHOT”

After seeing her work and meeting her, I did think that she is a bit bonkers, but these series prove that she is amazing and extraordinary photographer.

She is pointing out important aspects, the one’s I am looking at:

  • We don’t like to think about our death or death in general.
  • Life and death are linked together closely, no one lives forever and death is just an end of a cycle.
  • It is interesting to see that she takes in account the cemeteries and where the images that she is taking, end up. And reflecting on my visits to grave yards, she is right – people walk around the entire cemetery and look at the pictures. We like visual elements around us, we respond to them a lot quicker than to texts. For example, if someone get’s a new book, first thing they do – flick through pages looking for images that might give hints to what the book is about. Interesting discovery indeed.

I really really like her photographs from the series, she keeps her distinctive style and creates a little magic around the personalities.

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She is achieving the perfect image and the perfect reflection of the person – and she was taking in account the wishes of the person in the photo. They are looking fresh, beautiful, polished and proud.

The project is a reflection of how the society and the acceptance are changing in the 21st Century.

This also [than you] is backing up my idea that people are ready to talk about expiring and dying.

 

 

Andy also mentioned company named “photowonder” and they specialize in making digital videos of funerals as a keepsake and memorium.

As I was looking for that some interesting research come up:

Pinterest has Burial-Funeral Services photographic section, and whilst flicking through I discovered a lot of interesting image content, some badly photographed and some a bit plain…but these images exist and we can PIN THEM.

Burial and Funeral Services on Pinterest

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Another website gives seven suggestions about Funeral keepsakes:

  • Framed photographs

photo-memorials-funeral-pictures-keepsakes

  • Pre-Planned Memorial Photography

    memorial-photos-funeral-photography

  • Engraved Photo Cremation Urns

    memorial-photo-urn-cremation-urns-picture

  • Painted Portrait Photo Memorials

    portrait-photo-memorials-funeral-painting

  • Memorial Photo Collages

photo-memorial-collage-funeral-pictures

  • Photo Memorial Coin Keepsakes

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  • Memorial Photo Plaques

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I can spot the potential in making some of these as products/services in addition to just a funeral photographs. And I have to say that the images or presentation could be improved with better image and design [apart from Frieke Janssens, the rest-sorry].

Source:
7 Unique Funeral Pictures & Keepsakes

For the final part of the tutorial, we continued the discussion about funerals and wakes being a social event, therefore it can be photographed as any other event, taking in account the occasion and behave appropriately.
Ideally my approach would be “Martin Parr style”, but that would be hidden behind a professional approach and sensitive handling due to people’s needs.

WEEKLY REFLECTION #19

 

 

End of the week was again productive and busy. I had two meetings lined up- meeting with John Gilbert, part of the Hull 2020 Champions Clinics to discuss David Burns Show and “Before I Die” wall and quick meeting with David Burns Show producers to discuss details about the show.

 

In the meeting with John Gilbert, I had a “moment of truth” about the massive help Hull 2020 Champions have given to me so far to help me towards achieving my goals and get my project out to the public.

We discussed the potential conversation about my project and what are the focus points. John suggested to push this forward as a future business idea. To the question if that is even ethical to make money out of photographing death  I had to answer myself…If I can prove to people that photographing funeral is beneficial to the family and it will be part of celebrating a life left behind, I can surely say yes.

John suggested to write a press release to Hull Daily Mail about my Funeral Photography Project and try to get the article in the same day as the David Burns Show.

Great idea, but again – I’ve never written one and can I take another step towards public availability regards to my project?

John shared a template for press release and left the decision up to me.

In all fairness, in the meeting I thought – I better stick to the radio show as it is nerve racking already….

The cheery on the top was the further discussions about BEFORE I DIE WALL and that my enthusiasm has encouraged John and his team to get involved.

Really happy to know that I can inspire people to do something. Also great to know that they consider me to be able to make a space in my busy diary for a wall and that I am good enough photographer to get a title of Hull’s “Before I Die” wall official photographer.

The plan was to do a trial wall in upcoming YO-YO Festival and see what the response is like. As the festival was family friendly, culturally vibrant it was a great opportunity to test the wall.

You can read more about my collaboration with John Gilbert, eskimosoup and Hull 2020 Champions here:
Collaboration with John Gilbert/eskimosoup and Hull 2020 Champions

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Quick meeting with Olivia, the producer of BBC Radio Humberside David Burns Show.

I met up with Olivia, because I needed to ask a few questions and see what they want to focus on.

Olivia had previously seen the document that describes the project and includes all photographs, so she was well aware of my project.
Here is the document, if you want to have a read through:
David Burns BBC Radio Humberside Talk Show application

Questions that I had prepared:

  • Does the show gets pre-recorded and edited?
    Always worried about the sound of my voice when recorded, so I was hoping to get some voice filters. Editing – how do they avoid any awkward moments, mistakes and other bits.
  • what is the overall nature of the show?
    I have to have certain bias when talking about my show and find the right approach.
  • Have they had none-English people on before?
    I am worried that people will make their observations straight after finding out about my nationality and their reaction will be different. If honest – I have forgotten how its like when people become a bit “racist”.
  • Can I take my camera and take a few pictures for visual proof.

Questions that they want to discuss on the show:

  • What do I think of Hull?
  • What is my project about?
  • My Latvian heritage influences.
  • Discuss my grandmothers photograph and others. Also bring these photos for Burnsy.
  • Cultural differences.

The meeting made me feel a lot more confident. I thought that I am as ready as I will ever be.

As previously discussed, I was hoping that my tutor Andy will come with me to the show, as he know my project, reasons behind the project and overall subject matter, he also has got interesting views on death and life.
Andy would also work as a nerve-relief and support if I struggle to speak or think.
But his availability was under a question mark and that was making me nervous.

Summary:
A lot of great things are happening, I just need to embrace the moment and do my absolute best to succeed. I have a lot of supporters that will help me and inspire me, so I should not be worried.

WEEKLY REFLECTION #18

 

 

Exhibition Planning – testing split batons and STICKALL glue with Steve from the workshop.

For our A0 prints we had to figure out safe and steady method of how we going to get the prints secured to the wall for the exhibition.

Last year we had the same type of prints 3 mm Foamboard and we used velcro. That was fairly cheap and easy, but the lesson learned – by moving velcro of the surface it comes of together with paint or whatever the decoration is.

As the downstairs space in Hull School of Art&Design is permanently used for exhibiting art, we cannot damage the white walls. Also Steve from the workshop takes the Degree Show seriously and professionally, so we cannot be messing about with velcro.

Steve has come up with split batons.

One part of the baton will be attached to the print and other – to the wall. Once both parts are attached, the prints will hook on the batons on the wall.
That means that we can work on both separately and when the exhibition comes, the hard work will be behind and hanging the prints will be the pleasing part.

But before we put ourselves through lot of work we had to test the split batons and STICKALL glue.

 

In the photos you can see Steve, me and split batons.

Once the batons glued, they had to be put under heavy pressure and I had to come back next day and see if it sticks together fine.

The next day it was good news – it was really secure and when we tried to remove the split baton, the wood split and part of it was still attached to the print.

So happy days!!!!

WEEKLY REFLECTION #17

As the David Burns show was highly recommended to me as a primary source and potentially could mould my project into a serious turning point, I decided to write a proposal and send it to David Burns production team.

I suddenly had to turn my ideas into words that make sense and helps people to understand what and why I am doing this.

I had to sell the idea and make it real, so that I can move forward with the project.

Going to the radio show had a specific angle – Funeral photography, so other little projects for that particular occasion was just added as an extra.

My main focus points had to be the funeral experiences growing up, recent discoveries of my family’s collection of funeral photographs and four days in Latvia when I photographed a funeral [crashed a funeral], went to the morgue and visited my family’s grave yard.

And then I had to explain my open minded views on photographing funerals, give an insight to my cultural views and differences. To introduce my project and ideas, I eased the subject into photographing funerals in the UK, taking account my previous experience in Latvia, cultural differences, taboo’s about talking about death and paying respects and see if I can find the answers to some questions.

The whole process of writing the material was like a roller coaster, I jumped from one subject to another and copy-pasted different paragraphs.

After four hours of intense brain-storming I was ready to send it to Andy, John Gilbert for a proof reading and second opinion.

To read the full document, click here:
David Burns BBC Radio Humberside Talk Show application

 

I also added photographs of my grandmother, selection of funeral photographs.
The images can tell more than thousand words, but as it will be broadcasted on the radio, people will not see the images and they are less likely to use their imagination to see where I am coming from.

But by adding the images to the document for the producers, will give them more of an understanding.

After proof reading and few suggestions how to improve the application, I sent it over to BBC Radio Humberside and it was official.

Few days later I got a phone call to see if we can discuss the radio appearance in detail and select a date.

I was over the moon that they got back to me with good news, they were interested I had a gut feeling that it might move the project to a different level, help me to over-come the communication issues and answer the most important question – is Hull ready for funeral photography and can we brake the silence and talk about death and paying the respects openly.

Few days later the reality kicked in and I started to feel the urge to cancel- was I ready to speak on the radio about this subject, can I say the right things and convince people listening that it is OK to speak about death and funerals. Can I persuade the listeners and get an invitation to some trial funerals? And prove that this is just another kind of celebration – celebration of a life lived??????

We will see……

In the next few days I will find out the date…..

WEEKLY REFLECTION #16

 

GRAVE YARD HUNT DAY 1 PLANNING

Last weekend I was on my way to Withernsea and half way [or according to map 1/3] I shouted – GRAVEYARD. I was in the car with civilized people, so could not stop and wonder around.
But that occasion inspired me to travel around East Riding and Hull in a search for grave yards or cemeteries [let’s talk English].
The following week I started search of exact locations and prepared a map.

The purpose – as I have a clear understanding and knowledge around what Latvian graveyards look like and just rough idea about English graveyards, I have to visit them in order to understand the cultural difference and overall feel.

The understanding so far is – simple and tidy, grave stone and flowers. The areas are fairly big and there is a church or cemetery on the land as well.

I started with tracking down the graveyard on the way to Withernsea.

MAP 1

Next step was to go to other end of East Riding and spot the one I’ve seen few weeks back in South Cave.

MAP 3 SOUTH CAVE

In order to have more than two I used sources to locate others.

Hull City Council: Burials and cemeteries

East Riding and Yorkshire Council Cemeteries

I total I found seven that I would like to visit. But the ones in outskirts of Hull seem more attractive and also less crowded. First three [as seen in the map below] are my priorities for the day and others I will visit if have time or the research process is mind blowing and interesting and helps towards developing the slow-going project.

Hull area map

The outcome hopefully will be more than just research images and will lead me into finalizing some of my project points, such as cultural differences and trends in cemeteries.
I am hoping for quiet visits, not to be disturbed with questions or prohibitions to take photographs. I would not mind meeting an odd person and ask a few questions.

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The top image recreation would be a dream come-true, but I more expect images shown below.

The list is ready, I plan to set up early [around 6/7 am] and the kit – Canon Mark III, 24-70 mm, 85 mm and speedlight [just in case].

 

NOTE: When preparing equipment I started to think if taking a photo-bag would make me more noticeable. Interesting point for a consideration.