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”
“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.”
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.
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.
Another website gives seven suggestions about Funeral keepsakes:
Pre-Planned Memorial Photography
Engraved Photo Cremation Urns
Painted Portrait Photo Memorials
Memorial Photo Collages
Photo Memorial Coin Keepsakes
Memorial Photo Plaques
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].
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.